26 fevereiro 2010

Hallelujah

In the past month, Leonard Cohen’s 1985 composition “Hallelujah” has experienced what seems like its fifth resurgence of the past 10 years. Cohen’s ode to sex, transcendence, and key changes appeared on three major television events of varying levels of gravitas: Justin Timberlake, sitting at a piano, performed the track on the Hope For Haiti Now telethon with the assistance of a former Mickey Mouse Club co-star; k.d. lang, alone on a podium in all white, crooned the track during the Olympic Games’ Canada-saluting opening ceremonies; and the American Idol producers scored a montage of this season’s finalists celebrating their triumphs to Jeff Buckley’s cover, which appeared on his 1994 album, Grace.
This isn’t the first time that Cohen’s song—or, rather, others’ interpretations of it—has seemingly blanketed the airwaves. In 2007, music writer Mike Barthel wrote an analysis of the song’s popularity with music supervisors, particularly in situations where sincerity was a prerequisite. Barthel notes that, in the early 2000s, ex–Velvet Underground member John Cale’s take appeared alongside Smash Mouth’s peppy “All Star” on the soundtrack to the animated-gnome film Shrek, after which the song took on a life of its own on TV; different versions of “Hallelujah” were employed as signifiers of serious business on youth-leaning shows like Scrubs and The O.C. (The latter utilized Buckley’s cover and one by quirky songbird Imogen Heap.)
And there’s more: The rock band Fall Out Boy sprinkled the song’s chorus into their 2007 track “Hum Hallelujah”; FOB cohorts Paramore also integrated it into their live show (as a way of introducing their own track with the same name). “Hallelujah” got what was arguably its biggest Stateside exposure in the spring of 2008, when the dreadlocked American Idol hopeful Jason Castro meticulously covered the Buckley/Cale interpretation on the televised talent show—causing Buckley’s version to soar to No. 1 on the U.S. Digital Tracks chart.
Idol’s cantankerous Simon Cowell took note of this success, subsequently declaring Buckley’s take “one of [his] favorite songs of all time” and lining up the rights for “Halleljuah” to be used as the “coronation song” for the winner of his British talent show The X Factor later that year. (That version went to No. 1 on the U.K. singles charts and helped Buckley’s cover vault back into the top five.)
Shows like Idol and The X Factor place a premium on a singer’s ability to “connect” with a song, and “Hallelujah” definitely has lots of places where a singer can grab on. The song’s pre-Shrek history—written by the serious troubadour Cohen, covered by the underground-rock pioneer Cale, and remade once again by the gone-before-his-time Buckley—implies a place in the firmament just as much as the lyrics, which meld together the sacred and the profane in different ways depending on what verses are employed. (Cohen apparently wrote about 80.)
Watching performances of “Hallelujah” by people who aren’t Cohen—whose original take has an archness that’s wiped away by the clear-eyed sincerity offered up by his successors—you see one common thread: each singer really feels the song, closing their eyes at least once in every performance to properly communicate that what they are singing is Serious Business. This despite the cut-and-paste nature of the covers, some of which elide the song’s more disturbing imagery (“She tied you to her kitchen chair / She broke your throne and she cut your hair”) in an effort to expedite the journey to the song’s hymn-like, catharsis-providing chorus.
“‘Hallelujah,’” Barthel wrote in 2007, “offers all those great, resonant Biblical signifiers and intense religious emotions without the proselytizing or the attempt at a modern updating.” And it’s telling that the first major usage of the song in 2010 was in the context of an oustretched hand; proceeds from the studio version’s iTunes sales went to help victims of the January earthquake in Haiti. When Timberlake was asked why he took on Cohen for charity, he told MTV, “The way that it’s written can be interpreted many different ways. But the emotion that comes through—the chords, the melody, and also what’s being said in the song—it just kind of fit for the telethon.” (He, like Cowell, cited the track as one of his favorites, although it’s unclear whose version he prefers.)
Cohen himself seems somewhat bemused by the New Sincerity–boosted success of “Hallelujah,” which didn’t even rate a mention in his 1996 biography. Shortly after last year’s release of the comic-book adaptation Watchmen, which uses “Hallelujah” in a widely derided love scene, he told the CBC: “I was just reading a review of a movie called Watchmen that uses it and the reviewer said, ‘Can we please have a moratorium on “Hallelujah” in movies and television shows?’ And I kind of feel the same way.”
But singers who want to establish themselves as serious artists do not, and neither do consumers, which has at least given the people administering Cohen’s publishing rights something to herald. On the digital-songs charts released Wednsday, Buckley’s take on “Hallelujah” re-entered the fray at No. 147, selling 13,000 virtual copies, while lang’s version, included on her new greatest-hits compilation, Recollection, vaulted from No. 122 to No. 17, moving 71,000 units. A group called The Canadian Tenors is also currently charting with a melodramatic version of the song that makes Buckley’s take seem downright subdued.
Cohen’s original, however, did not sell the 10,000 copies required for it to break into the charts.

Vanity Fair

Breasts

Thanx to JC :-B


15 Things You Should Know About Breasts
Via: Online Schools

the Londonist, the SFist, the Bostonist, the LAist, the Gothamist

The logos alone entice you to surf their websites ,)
I've been to the cities above (apart from Gotham, ie, NYC ;) and there's more North American places.

25 fevereiro 2010

Snake Oil: feast your eyes ,)


(because :) Information is beautiful!

NeoGeography: for Haiti

How many people does it take to draw a map? How many, especially, when a city is in ruins? The BBC has a slideshow of what might be called social cartography: in the hours after an earthquake hit Haiti, the map of Port au Prince at OpenStreetMap went, with a little help from more than two thousand users, from this:
map1_opt.png
To this:
map2_opt.png
A few unlabelled arteries and a lot of terra incognita became something that helped relief get to where it was needed. The most moving picture in the slide show is the one of the map downloaded to the GPS device of a Red Cross worker who is following it through the streets of Port au Prince. The World Bank’s Haiti situation room had a giant print-out of the map on its wall.
Christopher Osborne, a “neogeographer,” described the work of OpenStreetMap and CrisisMappers in a column for the Guardians Web site a couple of weeks ago, noting that the project was aided by the release of high-resolution satellite imagery. The map wasn’t just drawn from, say, the memories of expatriates and travellers, like something Marco Polo would have drawn, but from traces—of pictures from the sky, and from GPS tracks taken on the ground—as well as from other sorts of open-source pictures and maps. Osborne provides an animation of the cartographic process: the white flashes are new users’ edits, the spreading red and green lines are streets, and the glowing blue dots are camps of displaced people.

24 fevereiro 2010

A Floating Garden

It looks like something from a sci fi film but this creation may be the answer to the problem of water pollution. Dubbed the 'floating garden' the craft is designed to carry passengers on waterways like the Thames and purify murky water as it goes...
..The impressive green machine, called the Physalia, also generates enough energy to power itself and sustain the vast array of plantlife on board

Telegraph

23 fevereiro 2010

Strange Buildings - (at least) 2 in Portugal

 

And Grand Lisboa casino in Macau:


some of my favourites:


website

The Luxury of having Ian McShane on TV here

Kings, Fox Next channel

Hollywood regularly cherry picks the best in British talent and turns it to unexpected purpose. But if there is a more genuinely surprising rise to the A (or at least B) list than that of Ian McShane in recent years, I've certainly failed to spot it.

The trades this morning are reporting that the 68-year-old Blackburn-born actor who once plied his trade on the British small screen in the likes of Lovejoy and Minder, as well as stints in US series from Dallas to The West Wing, is to play Blackbeard in the next Pirates of the Caribbean film. McShane will presumably be pitting his dastardly wits against Johnny Depp's Captain Jack Sparrow in what will surely be one of next year's biggest blockbusters, Jerry Bruckheimer's series having so far stacked up enough box office gold bullion to rebuild El Dorado.
What's so remarkable about McShane's arrival at the top table is that it has come so late in his career, and seems to have been a slow and steady rise through the ranks. A Golden Globe for his brutal brothel owner, Al Swearengen, in TV series Deadwood can't have done him any harm, but there has been no award-winning, grandstanding movie performance to catapult him to glory.
Rather, McShane's notable engagements on the big screen have been in voiceover roles, always less likely to push an actor's head above the parapet and into the public consciousness. His charismatic turn as the rebel martial arts student Tai Lung in Dreamworks' fabulous Kung Fu Panda transcended the phoned in performances which can typify these types of affairs, and his eccentric Mr Bobinsky was a delightful addition to Henry Selick's enchanting Coraline.
Yet as recently as 2008 McShane was just as likely to be seen in throwaway roles. I'm thinking of his Frank Powell in cheesy Andy Samberg comedy Hot Rod, here, or his "Coach" in trashy Jason Statham vehicle Death Race. Can you think of another British star who has hit pole position so late in his or her careers?


21 fevereiro 2010

Porque razão abandonaram os vampiros a Transilvânia? Por uma razão artística muito forte: porque vendem

Ao que parece, alguém se enganou com o seu ar sisudo e lhes franqueou as portas à chegada: os vampiros estão em todo o lado. Na literatura, no cinema, na televisão, aparecem vampiros a toda a hora. Saiu uma antologia portuguesa de contos com vampiros, há filmes e livros estrangeiros cheios de vampiros, e quase todos os programas de televisão incluem um vampiro: nas telenovelas, lá está um vampiro; nas séries juvenis, lá está um vampiro; nas conferências de imprensa do ministro das Finanças, lá está um vampiro.

Por que razão abandonaram os vampiros a Transilvânia e vieram povoar o resto do mundo? Por uma razão artística muito forte: porque vendem. Aparentemente, o público do início do século XXI tem um interesse sem precedentes pelos vampiros - o que, diga-se, não é fácil de perceber. Os vampiros são um monstro que não inspira particular terror. São, no fundo, um monstro totó. Gostam de sangue, mas isso também os apreciadores de cabidela, e eu não tenho medo deles. Não podem apanhar sol, como as crianças que têm a pele leitosa. Têm medo de alhos, que é das fobias mais maricas que uma pessoa pode ter. E morrem se lhes espetarem uma estaca de madeira no coração. Olha que idiossincrasia tão gira. Ao contrário do que acontece com o resto de nós, os vampiros não duram muito se lhes empalarem o coração. De resto, é um facto que desejam morder-nos o pescoço, o que não deve ser agradável. Mas, se o conseguirem, transformam-nos em vampiros imortais. Que transtorno tão grande. Um monstro que, se não tivermos cuidado, nos dá a vida eterna. Há religiões que, a troco de muito dinheiro, não oferecem metade. Por mim, não me importo de ficar com os caninos um pouco maiores se é esse o preço a pagar para viver para sempre. Nem precisam de me prometer a eternidade: perante a perspectiva da morte, até aceito ficar com a dentição da Teresa Guilherme se me derem mais duas semanas de vida. 

O mais surpreendente nestes vampiros modernos é o modo como a adaptação aos tempos actuais os tornou ainda menos assustadores. Apaixonam-se com muita facilidade por raparigas humanas, o que lhes agrava as olheiras. Desenvolveram uma ética que não lhes permite fincar o dente em qualquer pescoço para saciar a fome. São monstros certinhos, que querem comportar-se como deve ser para terem uma vida social igual à das outras pessoas. São uma espécie de diabético que, em vez de tomar a injecção de insulina de vez em quando, toma um sucedâneo de sangue. Não são monstros, são pessoas doentes que querem fazer uma vida normal. É aborrecido. Os vampiros da minha infância andariam por aí a morder pescoços indiscriminadamente. A estes, só lhes falta que a ASAE apareça a proibi-los de sugar artérias em restaurantes. Bananas.

Ricardo Araújo Pereira in Visão

Why read anything by Philip Pullman

The three virtues we need

At first sight, of course, vice is more attractive. She is sexier, she promises to be better company than her plain sister virtue. Every novelist, and every reader too, has more fun with the villains than with the good guys. Goodness is staunch and patient, but wickedness is vivid and dynamic; we admire the first, but we thrill to the second.
Nevertheless, I want to say a word in praise of virtue: the quality or qualities that enable a nation and its citizens to live well, by which I mean morally well.
And to see what virtue looks like, we need to look not to lists of laws and commandments, but to literature. Was a lesson on the importance of kindness ever delivered more devastatingly, or learned more securely, than Mr Knightley's reproof of Emma in the novel that bears her name? Was the value of play in childhood (a profoundly ethical matter) ever more memorably conveyed than by Dickens's description of the Smallweed children in Bleak House?
The house of Smallweed … has strengthened itself in its practical character, has discarded all amusements, discountenanced all story-books, fairy tales, fictions and fables, and banished all levities altogether. Hence the gratifying fact, that it has had no child born to it, and that the complete little men and women whom it has produced, have been observed to bear a likeness to old monkeys with something depressing on their minds.
The lesson of every story in which the good is illustrated is, as Jesus said after telling the parable of the Good Samaritan, "Go, and do thou likewise." The genius of Jesus – and Jane Austen, and Dickens, and every other storyteller whose tales are as memorable – gives us no excuse to say we don't know what the good looks like.
When it comes to public virtue, William Blake's great poem Auguries of Innocence reminds us in forthright and indeed prophetic terms that the personal and the political are one:
A dog starv'd at his Master's Gate
Predicts the ruin of the State.
A Horse misus'd upon the Road
Calls to Heaven for Human blood ...
The wanton Boy that kills the Fly
Shall feel the Spider's enmity
And, in a couplet the Blair government should have remembered before licensing the creation of super-casinos:
The Whore & Gambler, by the State
Licens'd, build that Nation's Fate
In fact, ethical guidance is something we have never actually been short of. Those who insist that all ethical teaching must be religious in origin are talking nonsense. Some of it is: much of it isn't.
But when it comes to public or political virtues, are there any in particular that ought to characterise a virtuous state? I can think of three that would make a good start.
The first is courage. Courage is foundational: it's what we need so as to be able to act kindly even when we're afraid, in order to exercise good and steady judgment even in the midst of confusion and panic, in order to deal with long-term necessity even when short-term expediency would be easier. A courageous nation would not be afraid of its own newspapers, or toady to their proprietors; it would continue to do what was right even when loud voices were urging it to do wrong. It would stand up to economic interests when others were more important, and yes, there are interests that are more important than short-term economic benefits. And when it came to the threat of external danger, a courageous nation would take a clear look at the danger and take realistic steps to avert it. It would not take up a machine-gun to defend itself against a wasp.
The second virtue I want to praise is modesty. Modesty in a nation consists among other things of fitting the form to the meaning, and not mistaking style for substance. A modest kingdom, for instance, would have to think for a moment to remember whether or not it was a republic, because the members of the royal family would be allowed to spend most of their time in useful and interesting careers as well as being royal, and their love affairs would remain their own business; and people would always be glad to see them cycling past. Acquiring modesty in our public life would be a big step towards developing a realistic sense of our size and position in the world.
The third virtue I'd like to see in a nation (all right: in our nation, now) is intellectual curiosity. Wakefulness of mind might be another term for it. A nation with that quality would be conscious of itself and of its history, and of every thread that made up the tapestry of its culture. It would believe that the highest knowledge of itself had been expressed by its artists, its writers and poets, and it would teach its children how to know and how to love their work, believing that this activity would give them, the children, an important part to play in the self-knowledge and memory of the nation. A nation where this virtue was strong would be active and enquiring of mind, quick to perceive and compare and consider. Such a nation would know at once when a government tried to interfere with its freedoms. It would remember how all those freedoms had been gained, because each one would have a story attached to it, and an attack on any of them would feel like a personal affront. That's the value of wakefulness.
To finish I want to say something briefly about how virtue manifests itself in daily life, local life. I saw two little things recently that give me hope that the spirit of common, public, civic virtue is still alive in this nation of ours when people are free to act without interference.
The first is an example of "folk traffic-calming". People living in a residential road in Oxford, home to a lot of families and children, a road which normally functions as a rat-run for cars, recently decided to take matters into their own hands and demonstrate that the street is a place for everyone, not just for people in large heavy mobile steel objects. They set up a living room right in the road, with a sofa, a carpet, a coffee table, and held a tea-party. They parked their own cars in a chevron formation all the way along the road and put planters containing bushes and small trees there too to calm the traffic down. They set up a walk-in petrol addiction clinic. The result was that cars could easily get through, but drivers couldn't see clear from one end of the road to the other and didn't feel it was just for driving along at 30 miles an hour. Everyone shared the whole space. It was a triumph: wit in the service of a decent human standard of life.
The second thing I saw was a television programme. It was about the work done by Michael Rosen when he was children's laureate, a project he undertook with a school in South Wales where books had been undervalued. He showed the children, and the teachers, and the parents the profound value of reading and all it could do to deepen and enrich their lives, and he did so not by following curriculum guidelines and aiming at targets and putting the children through tests, but by beginning with delight. Enchantment. Joy. The librarians there were practically weeping with relief and pleasure at seeing so many children now coming in to search the shelves and sit and read and talk about the books they're enjoying.
But I seem to be describing delight. Is that a virtue too? Well, it's like the canary in a coal mine: while it continues to sing, we know the great public virtue of liberty is still alive. A nation whose laws express fear and suspicion and hostility cannot sustain delight for very long. If joy goes, freedom is in danger.
So I would say that to sustain the virtue of a nation, we need to remember how the private connects with the public, the poetic with the political. We need to praise and cherish every example we can find of imaginative play, of the energy of creation, of the enchantment of art and the wonder of science. A nation that was brave, and modest, and curious sounds to me like one that understood that if it told its children stories, they might grow up to feel that virtue was in fact as interesting as vice.

The Guardian

20 fevereiro 2010

Nobody is making you do this: you chose it, so don't whine.

How to Write

Illustration: Andrzej Krauze
Elmore Leonard: Using adverbs is a mortal sin
1 Never open a book with weather. If it's only to create atmosphere, and not a charac­ter's reaction to the weather, you don't want to go on too long. The reader is apt to leaf ahead look­ing for people. There are exceptions. If you happen to be Barry Lopez, who has more ways than an Eskimo to describe ice and snow in his book Arctic Dreams, you can do all the weather reporting you want.
2 Avoid prologues: they can be ­annoying, especially a prologue ­following an introduction that comes after a foreword. But these are ordinarily found in non-fiction. A prologue in a novel is backstory, and you can drop it in anywhere you want. There is a prologue in John Steinbeck's Sweet Thursday, but it's OK because a character in the book makes the point of what my rules are all about. He says: "I like a lot of talk in a book and I don't like to have nobody tell me what the guy that's talking looks like. I want to figure out what he looks like from the way he talks."
3 Never use a verb other than "said" to carry dialogue. The line of dialogue belongs to the character; the verb is the writer sticking his nose in. But "said" is far less intrusive than "grumbled", "gasped", "cautioned", "lied". I once noticed Mary McCarthy ending a line of dialogue with "she asseverated" and had to stop reading and go to the dictionary.
4 Never use an adverb to modify the verb "said" . . . he admonished gravely. To use an adverb this way (or almost any way) is a mortal sin. The writer is now exposing himself in earnest, using a word that distracts and can interrupt the rhythm of the exchange. I have a character in one of my books tell how she used to write historical romances "full of rape and adverbs".
5 Keep your exclamation points ­under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose. If you have the knack of playing with exclaimers the way Tom Wolfe does, you can throw them in by the handful.
6 Never use the words "suddenly" or "all hell broke loose". This rule doesn't require an explanation. I have noticed that writers who use "suddenly" tend to exercise less control in the application of exclamation points.
7 Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly. Once you start spelling words in dialogue phonetically and loading the page with apos­trophes, you won't be able to stop. Notice the way Annie Proulx captures the flavour of Wyoming voices in her book of short stories Close Range.
8 Avoid detailed descriptions of characters, which Steinbeck covered. In Ernest Hemingway's "Hills Like White Elephants", what do the "Ameri­can and the girl with him" look like? "She had taken off her hat and put it on the table." That's the only reference to a physical description in the story.
9 Don't go into great detail describing places and things, unless you're ­Margaret Atwood and can paint scenes with language. You don't want descriptions that bring the action, the flow of the story, to a standstill.
10 Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip. Think of what you skip reading a novel: thick paragraphs of prose you can see have too many words in them.
My most important rule is one that sums up the 10: if it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.

Read all at The Guardian for the rules of Diana Athill, Margaret Atwood, Roddy Doyle, Helen Dunmore, Geoff Dyer, Anne Enright, Richard Ford, Jonathan Franzen, Esther Freud, Neil Gaiman, David Hare, PD James, AL Kennedy, Hilary Mantel, Michael Moorcock, Michael Morpurgo, Andrew Motion, Joyce Carol Oates, Annie Proulx, Philip Pullman, Ian Rankin, Will Self, Helen Simpson, Zadie Smith, Colm Tóibín, Rose Tremain, Sarah Waters, Jeanette Winterson.

19 fevereiro 2010

Fluenz

From Gadling:

So many language programs boast their superiority by claiming they teach you the same way you learned your native language as a child. Not Fluenz.

"Up until now, people have been limited to the 'see a picture, memorize the word' language programs that teach adults as if they were children. But, adults learn differently from children," says Carlos Lizarralde, co-founder of Fluenz. "That's why Fluenz f² introduces a tutor who incorporates the user's knowledge of English grammar and syntax as leverage for reaching fluency in the shortest time possible." Part of what Fluenz advocates is using a student's native language to their advantage; emphasizing similarities in Romance languages and grammatical similarities with Chinese, for example. That makes sense to me.

Having had some good luck with Rosetta Stone's intuitive, yet far more expensive TOTALe program, I decided to put this theory to the test. I opted for French, a language several people I know can speak -- that way, they can tell me how I sound. I also have some experience learning French, so I figure I can make a fair assessment of how the lessons are structured.
The first tool with which Fluenz bestows you when you open your shiny red box is Fluenz Podcast access. The Podcasts are currently offered in Mandarin, Spanish and French. While I think it's a good idea to have the sounds of your language of choice in your ear, I'm not sure how much one can actually benefit from just hearing another language. I'm pretty good at tuning out English podcasts, let alone French. Skeptical, I downloaded French 1. It included peripheral vocabulary and pronunciation tips from two speakers having a conversation. I can't see myself truly listening to this unless I was desperate, but it would be helpful for people who want to immerse themselves as much as possible. You could put it on in the car on the way to work, or your iPod on the train (though on the train, I wouldn't recommend repeating the words out loud).

Digging deeper into my Fluenz materials, I found a handy little pocket guide of 100 or so essentials like "Hello" (but by the way, if you're an adult who doesn't know how to say "Hello" in French, no one can help you) and "I need a lawyer."

Next in the box was a lesson guide. To get going, I popped the DVD Rom disc into my MacBook and double clicked the .osx file. It wouldn't launch. I tried several avenues and eventually succeeded with a simple reboot -- maybe that was only a glitch for me, but in case it wasn't; rebooting worked.

A teacher appeared on the screen to introduce the lessons. She was very clear, and made good sense. She encouraged students to learn in whatever way best suited them -- to watch a dialogue with subtitles or without. This way, you can choose whether to learn the sounds first or the meaning first. Also, you can skip ahead if you feel you're already comfortable with some basics.

One thing I found useful was that you were able to return to wherever in the lesson you were if you happened to quit to check your e-mail. The program takes awhile to launch, though, so it's best not to try and multitask.

Realizing there was no way I could take the lesson without devoting my full attention to it, I dove fully into Lesson One. It took me about 2 hours to complete. The pretty, well-spoken teacher was so friendly and clear that sometimes I wanted to scream at her for being condescending, but I think that's just my own impatience with sitting still in front of my computer and not checking e-mail. In Rosetta Stone, you are constantly engaged by clicking through pictures, whereas in Fluenz, there are stretches where you just need to hang tight and listen (and repeat).

As I relaxed and accepted I was just going to have to learn like I would in a class, and as she explained in detail the pronunciation, meaning, and grammatical abilities of each word, I started to have a really good time. This program makes Rosetta Stone seem like silly games for children. It's a fun way to learn, but I think Fluenz is right: I'm not a child, and I can learn faster if you teach me like an adult.

By the end of Lesson One, I was listening and typing words in (and spelling them correctly), speaking phrases into my built-in computer microphone and playing them back alongside the pre-recorded phrases to check how I sound, and using "est-ce que" question structure like a champ. The lesson closed with a video pat-on-the-back from my nice teacher and a promise that after the next lesson, I'd have more verbs and nouns and be able to carry on basic conversations from Canada to Marseille.

For anyone who can truly drop everything for a couple of hours per day to learn a language, I would recommend Fluenz. It doesn't require internet, so you can use it anywhere (like, you could take it with you to Africa and not worry about whether you'll have WiFi), and at $210 for Unit One (I only completed Lesson One, there are 30 in Unit One), Fluenz f2 is a terrific value -- much cheaper than a lot of the alternatives. I give Fluenz an A+ for bringing language-teaching back to what works, and not trying to find some fancy way to "trick" me into learning. Look for the red box.



Alice in Wonderland - nothing is as weird as the original

Central Park, New York, has a sculpture of Alice in Wonderland surrounded by the Mad Hatter, the Cheshire Cat, the White Rabbit and the Dormouse. The image of Alice herself is 11ft in height, perhaps testifying to her strange contortions at the beginning of her adventures. It is proof, too, that the seven-year-old girl and her companions have travelled across the world. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has been translated into more than 100 languages. Perhaps it has been turned into Martian.
The book has been the subject of ten operas and choral settings, appropriate for a work that contains several songs without sense. It has been adapted for 27 films, for cinema and television, the latest of which is Tim Burton’s version starring Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter and Helena Bonham Carter as the Queen of Hearts. It will no doubt continue the tradition of arch overacting that the text itself seems to demand. Mannerisms must be exaggerated; costumes must be outrageous.
There have been at least two pornographic films based on the story, which will satisfy those who continue to see sexual secrets in the inhabitants of Wonderland. Many films, such as The Matrix and Resident Evil, borrow from elements of the Alice story. Salvador Dalí finished 12 illustrations inspired by Alice, and of course there are some who believe that Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is the true origin of surrealism.
The first theatrical version was produced in 1886, and there have been countless dramas of Alice since. There is a certain justice to this since Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll) was a great frequenter of the mid-Victorian theatre, as a study of the court of his Queen of Hearts reveals. Alice has inspired many novelists, from Nabokov to Joyce. The influence on Joyce is clear, and it may be that Nabokov’s Lolita is soul sister to the little girl.
Alice has also affected contemporary musicians, from the Beatles to Jefferson Airplane, from Erasure to Aerosmith. The television series Lost made its obeisance to Lewis Carroll. An episode of Star Trek was devoted to his story. Yet enough is enough. It would try anyone’s patience to list the adaptations, retellings, prequels, sequels, video and computer games devoted to Alice’s adventures. There is room for one other derivative. A neurological complaint has been named as Alice in Wonderland syndrome; it entails the misperception of objects as smaller or larger than they really are.
It all began on the “golden afternoon” of July 4, 1862, when Dodgson rowed three little girls along the Thames from Oxford to Godstow. “Tell us a story,” one of the little girls, Alice Liddell, demanded. So it began. Alice fell down the rabbit hole, just like the holes they could see beside the banks of the river. Alice Liddell recalled in later years that Dodgson “had transported us into Fairyland”. She continually begged him to write down the adventures of her namesake. Two and a half years later he presented her with a complete manuscript bound in green leather. 

More from the TimesOnline

Hollywood is 100 years old

A Telegraph Gallery


Map Envelope ;)


Thanx to Tchetcha ;)

18 fevereiro 2010

БРОНЕНОСЕЦ ПОТЕМКИН

It's a great idea for a novel anyway. Spencer Ludwig, the arty, ineffectual filmmaker son of a tough self-made businessman and Holocaust survivor, finally gets to feel stronger than his heroic father, who is dying. Snatching him from the care of a resented stepmother, Spencer takes his ailing dad on an impromptu road trip to Las Vegas, where Spencer is taking part in an obscure film festival that is actually screening his obscure films.
But it's not just the main thrust of the action that makes David Flusfeder's latest book, A Film By Spencer Ludwig, such a joy to read. Spencer's own justification of his life as a "real artist", and his reasons for despising mainstream cinema, are perfectly drawn. One constant bugbear is the debasement of Eisenstein's 1925 film Battleship Potemkin by the lesser directors who have bowdlerised the celebrated baby-bouncing-down-the-stairs-in-the-pram scene. Another is the turpitude of artists who allow their work to be sequestered for the flogging of cereal.
The most pleasing thing? That advert where the man saves the shopping trolley with the toddler in it from crashing down the stairs, only to grab, and cuddle, not the weeping infant but a packet of Crunchy Nut cornflakes . . . it hadn't even been screened when Flusfeder finished his book. Case rested.

16 fevereiro 2010

Travel with a stock of Euros, don’t be a colonialist, Zim is a rogue state

When you first head off to places in the world that are a lot different from where you live, a number of things change. You have to learn to adapt.
I still make a lot of mistakes everywhere I go, but I try to learn from each of them. Here’s a short list of things I wish I’d known before I started my routine of extensive overseas travel, especially in countries in Africa, South Asia, Eastern Europe, and Latin America that are not part of the tourist circuit.
Health Care
1. You can legally buy safe medicine, including prescription drugs, for very little money overseas. When in Africa or Asia, I stock up on anti-malarials that cost $5 a day in Seattle. On location, it’s more like $1 for a 10-day supply.
2. The best health care is not in the U.S., Canada, or the U.K. The best healthcare is in places like Thailand and Costa Rica; that’s why the practice of medical tourism will continue to surge as both travel and overseas healthcare become more accessible.
Money
3. Take a lot of cash with you, and make sure the bills are new and have no writing on them. If you go to a place that accepts credit cards, then you can just redeposit the cash when you get home. It is far worse to end up short of cash with no credit card option.
4. If you do use your credit card, check the online statement at least once a week while traveling to make sure there are no fraudulent charges. Keep all your receipts, especially for large purchases such as hotel stays, and compare the amounts charged when you get back.
5. When you exchange money, hang on to the receipt you get until you’ve left the country. Once in a great while, someone at the airport will want to see proof of all your foreign exchanges.
Outside the Tiger's Nest Monastery in Bhutan.

6. The U.S. dollar is no longer the world’s currency. (In fact, some currency exchange shops will no longer accept dollars!) Travel with a stock of Euros to complement your dollars. The exceptions to this rule include some countries in Africa and Latin America that still use the dollar as their primary currency, and any country that has had a recent war.
Taxis
7. Hire a taxi outside the airport, not from the guys who approach you inside as you’re walking out. Even better, walk further outside the airport to where the taxis pull in, and you’ll get a better deal because the driver won’t have to pay the entrance fee.
8. Never assume that your taxi driver knows where your destination is. Double-check and get him to ask someone before you go if there’s any doubt.
9. The universal rule of taxi haggling, for both driver and passenger, is that once both sides agree on a fare before setting off, neither side can reopen negotiations once you’re en route. You should not try to get a better deal nor should you accept any increase in the fare from the driver after the journey has started.
10. If you have a dispute with a taxi driver and you think you are being taken advantage of, offer to call the police and have them settle it. Many taxi drivers are scared of the police, and often for good reason (see below). If they are being dishonest and you mention the police, they will quickly back down. On the other hand, if they continue to press their claims, they may be right and you’ll need to pay more.
Safety
11. The police are not always your friends. Sad but true—in a lot of places in the world, the services of the police are sold to the highest bidder. Therefore, if you can pay them, they may turn out to be your friends… but in other cases, they may actually be the least trustworthy people in the country. Don’t be afraid, just be aware.
12. When you feel pressured beyond your comfort level by someone who tries to follow you, be polite but increasingly firm. Don’t string anyone along out of guilt—tell them you don’t want their help, and move on. If they keep following you, tell them to stop.
Memorial to the Fallen in Bhutan.

13. When it comes to visas (and all immigration issues), your experience will vary from place to place. The rules are flexible in most places, and sometimes they will work in your favor and sometimes they will work against you.
Planes, Trains, and Buses
14. All plane tickets are changeable no matter what is written on them, and any fees for changing can be waived with the right airline agent. You have a few options for making this happen: a) Hang up and call back to try with someone else, b) Call the Premium Traveler line or ask at an airline lounge, or c) Offer a “tip” at the airline counter (do this at your own risk).
15. Round-the-World tickets are the best bargains for extensive international travel. I use and recommend both the Star Alliance and the OneWorld products. Each have their advantages. SkyTeam also has a Round-the-World product, but it’s not nearly as good as the other two.
16. Most people flying Business Class are not paying full-fare. A high percentage of them on most flights are using awards tickets, special tickets, or have upgraded from Economy. Flying in premium cabins can help you in more ways than just being comfortable on long flights, because the tickets can almost always be changed or refunded without penalty. You’ll also get to hang out in airline lounges and get priority treatment, which may become very useful when you need to get in or out of somewhere fast. First Class is nice too, but the difference between First and Business is rarely as great as the difference between Business and Economy.
17. In some places, buses are better than trains for overland travel… in other places, trains are better than buses. Check out the options before you go to make the best decision for each place.
Culture
18. The concept of personal space means very different things in different countries. You kind of have to get used to that.
19. Like it or not, you have to be somewhat tolerant of smoking. There are lots of places in the world that haven’t picked up on the Western anti-smoking crusade. If this is hard for you to accept, you’ll likely be frustrated.
20. Unless you can be very discreet, never take photos of people without asking. Don’t be surprised if they say no, because many cultures are not comfortable with strangers taking photos of them all the time. If they do say yes, you may find yourselves indebted to them for a gift or other favor.
21. Never touch members of the opposite sex. This includes sitting next to them on buses and trains—you’ll often be shuffled around to ensure that you only sit next to people of the same sex, although you’ll also usually be given the best seat.
22. Don’t point your feet at people or touch anyone on the head. In several cultures, this is disrespectful or otherwise inappropriate.
23. Be careful with all hand gestures, including the “thumbs-up” sign and the “a-OK” sign. Both of these are highly provocative in some places.
24. Never make promises you don’t intend to keep. Don’t tell vendors you’ll buy from them tomorrow, don’t offer to help anyone visit your country, don’t say you’ll write to someone later if you won’t really do it, and so on.
25. Most important: don’t be a colonialist. Be careful about calling people “locals.” Don’t assume that your culture is superior. People are not stupid just because they don’t speak English or think like you do.
Politics
26. Be prepared to represent your country, whether you care about politics or not. For better or worse, many people will expect you to know a lot about politics in your home country and how governmental decisions in one country affect the lives of people thousands of miles away. Don’t say you’re from Canada unless you really are.
27. Always point out that a government’s actions and the beliefs of an individual (e.g., yourself) are not always the same. Most people understand this and some will even say the same thing without prompting, but it’s usually a good reminder to put forward.
28. No matter whom you are talking to, never say anything negative about the government of the country you are in. Many rogue states, from Zimbabwe to Iran to North Korea, employ English-speaking spies who will deliberately try to incite foreign visitors into saying something incriminating. (I’m not making this up. In Guinea I was followed by the Secret Service everywhere I went. A friend of mine went to North Korea and found an extensive tape recording system in his hotel room.)

Dostoevsky gets lost in translation


It took me a fair bit of heartache to change the title of The Brothers K to The K Brothers, trapeze artists or no trapeze artists (Those famous brothers have the wrong name, G2, July 29). And then, would I get it past the publishers? Fortunately World's Classics, as it was then known, before it changed to the more quirky Oxford World's Classics, were very understanding.
But The Brothers K has become so ingrained, probably not for 130 years, though for long enough, that I was in two minds whether to proceed with the switch. As I found out later, mine was not a totally unprecedented idea, but it was the first time the novel was actually published in the west under that title.
There is something about language that, given time, mistakes have a habit of turning into the norm. In 130 years it probably would be too late to do anything about the word order. So, I'm glad I went ahead in 1995. The less stilted version is preferable (in Russian there's no choice in the matter). It's a feature of Dostoevsky that whenever he ups the rhetoric, he lowers the profile. The lads could well have been a trapeze act, though that too, I seem to remember, is not an altogether original observation.
And lastly, the two greatest titles of all time must be Crime and Punishment and War and Peace - so far! The Karamazov Brothers, Hamlet etc are cop-outs in comparison. However, now C&P and W&P have perhaps both been pipped at the post by Humiliated and Insulted, my latest Dostoevsky offering, which too has had its share of variants in English from Insult to Injury to The Insulted and Injured. But that's quite another story.
Ignat Avsey
London

Hard as Russians

(The Burning of Avvakum (1897), by Grigoriy Myasoyedov)

by author Daniel Kalder

Many years ago a friend made one of the most perceptive comments I have ever heard about Russian writers. "Yeah," he said, "they're profound and all that. But they're also incredibly hard. I mean, there's Pushkin: died in a duel. Lermontov: died in a duel. Tolstoy: fought in the Caucasus. Dostoevsky: sentenced to death, exiled to a Siberian prison camp. Solzhenitsyn: fought in the second world war, sent to the Gulag, survived cancer, defied the USSR …"
"Don't forget Griboyedov," I added. "Torn to pieces by angry Persians after he tried to save an Armenian eunuch. And Varlam Shalamov: Seventeen years in the Gulag."
"Yeah – and what have English authors done? Dickens? Who did he fight?"
I still think this assessment stands. And recently I discovered possibly the hardest Russian of them all: Avvakum the Archpriest, author of both the first classic autobiography in Russian literature and the first eyewitness account of Siberia and its peoples.
Allow me to explain. In Russia in 1666-67 there was a schism in the church which arose from a dispute over aspects of ritual, such as how many fingers to use when crossing oneself. Avvakum led the Old Believers who insisted on using two (traditional for Russia) instead of three (a Greek custom enforced by a reformist church hierarchy). For his pains, he was flogged, exiled to Siberia, imprisoned for 14 years in a hole in the ground in the Arctic Circle and finally burnt at the stake. And yet Avvakum never recanted his beliefs. His faith was that strong. He was that hard.
Of course, there's more to him than that. He was also a fantastic writer: visceral, funny, moving, colourful and joyously obscene. Consider the following passages cited in Ivan the Fool, Andrei Sinyavsky's excellent history of Russian folk belief. Here Avvakum describes the Tsar languishing in hell:
"Are your eunuchs fanning you to keep the flies from biting the great sovereign? And when you shit, do you wipe your bottom with that hellfire? The Holy Spirit tells me … there's no need to shit away what you've eaten since the worms are slowly eating the great sovereign himself … into the bowels of the earth with you, son of a bitch!"
Here he advises his followers not to fear martyrdom:
"In that fire you won't have long to suffer, in the blink of an eye your soul will take flight! Don't you see? Are you afraid of that furnace? Take heart, spit on it, don't be afraid! You may feel afraid, but as soon as you go into the furnace, you will forget everything."
This is the kind of priestly writing I can admire. You see, Avvakum and his fellow Old Believers thought that Russia had succumbed to the Antichrist and that the world was about to end. Millions fled into the forests, and thousands incinerated themselves to escape the trials described in Revelation. Thus his autobiography is far more than an obscure historical document – it is also a truthful account of life in the End Times as he experienced it. Avvakum's goal was to demonstrate via his own miserable life story how to endure the Last Days with faith in Christ. His book is an epic tale of ferocious resistance against evil.
Avvakum's extraordinary Life circulated exclusively among the persecuted Old Believers for nearly 200 years until it was "discovered" by the Russian intelligentsia in the 19th century. Since then it has wielded a great influence over numerous of Russia's literary titans. Dostoevsky drew deep inspiration from Avvakum's memoir, and Solzhenitsyn found in him a model of principled resistance to the state. Forget about your Turgenev and your Chekhov, it's the Archpriest you need to be reading if you want to understand Russia. Even in English, it has a fascinating if little known pedigree: the first translation was a collaborative effort between Jane Harrison – Britain's first female career academic – and Hope Mirrlees, a friend of Virginia Woolf whose modernist works are currently enjoying a renaissance.
Of course, all this would have meant nothing to Avvakum: his eyes were resolutely fixed on the next world. In 1971, nearly 300 years after he was burned alive, the Orthodox Church admitted that he wasn't a heretic after all and the whole torture and execution thing had been a tad excessive. And yet, so hard was Avvakum that I think he would have told them where to shove their pardon – for the Orthodox Church not only still advocated crossing yourself with three fingers instead of two, but was now collaborating with the God-hating Soviet state. In Avvakum's eyes they would have been ultra-Antichrists and he would have fought them to the death. Like the man said: "I would gladly die and come back to life to die again for Christ, our Lord."
And of course although it is not necessary to be hard to be a great author, it certainly helps. Because those writers who fight and endure, and who go further in their suffering and personal wars, will always experience things the rest of us can't begin to imagine, and thus expand our knowledge of the world. And that, surely, is what writing is all about – and why Russian literature in particular is so deeply rewarding.

14 fevereiro 2010

The Year of the Tiger

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright,
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire in thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder, and what art?
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand, and what dread feet?

What the hammer? What the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? What dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And watered heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb, make thee?

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright,
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

Happy Valentine's Day!

Thanx to Stranger in a Strange Land ;)


CUPID - Happy Valentine's Day from Billow Talk on Vimeo.

13 fevereiro 2010

O Formato Mulher - A Emergência da Autoria Feminina na Poesia Portuguesa

Vinte anos passaram anos desde que começou a pesquisa para "O Formato Mulher - A Emergência da Autoria Feminina na Poesia Portuguesa". Vinte anos necessários para que Anna Klobucka, professora de estudos portugueses na Universidade de Massachusetts-Dartmouth, EUA, conseguisse encontrar um espaço para a sua publicação, espaço pessoal de confronto com o seu projecto de doutoramento iniciado em 1989, mas também com a situação dos estudos feministas em Portugal.
Tentou publicá-lo em Portugal em 1993, mas não conseguiu. Quinze anos depois, revisto e aumentado, o estudo ganha outro fôlego pela mão da Angelus Novus: na tese original, estavam Florbela Espanca, Sophia de Mello Breyner, Maria Teresa Horta e Luiza Neto Jorge. Nesta edição, Klobucka inclui Adília Lopes e Ana Luísa Amaral. São cinco capítulos, um sobre Florbela e outro sobre Sophia, e dois estudos comparativos (Maria Teresa Horta e Luiza Jorge, Adília Lopes e Ana Luísa Amaral). Em "O Formato Mulher", Klobucka analisa a "problemática da autoria e da subjectividade no feminino na poesia portuguesa", como explicou ao Ípsilon. Ou seja: ler estas seis poetas não em relação ao contexto literário, mas como sujeitos de escrita que se assumem enquanto seres sexuados. Kloubucka quis ler poemas em que "o sujeito lírico se colocasse como 'gender'", explica. Quer dizer, assumindo a sua sexualidade, biológica e social. "Queria analisar as autoras que se 'gender' a si mesmas. Faz falta essa palavra em português. Que se exprimem como sexuadas."
Klobucka sempre pensou que no seu estudo "havia coisas potencialmente úteis e interessantes que não estavam a ser ditas". Nem em 1993, nem em 2009. Este é "um trabalho inédito" em Portugal, que "supre uma falha", disse Ana Luísa Amaral na apresentação da obra em Lisboa. Se já há estudos de História ou de Sociologia enquadrados na teoria feminista, não há quase nada sobre literatura portuguesa. Klobucka: "No cânone literário português ninguém toca. Não sei por que isto acontece, mas as pessoas falam-me em inércia e tradicionalismo."
Este livro é um "gesto político", admite, porque o "feminismo é uma política". Implica teorias, mas é, "acima de tudo, o imperativo ético de corrigir uma desigualdade". São as margens que lhe interessam, é questionar a motivação política generalizada da "hetero-normatividade, o pressuposto de haver dois sexos complementares, o homem e a mulher, e por esta ordem, e que toda a experiência da humanidade só faz sentido através dessa leitura". Klobucka quer pôr isto em causa, destruir esta lógica binária e assumir o "desdobramento" da autoria. É exactamente assim que apresenta as "suas" poetas, uma "escrita de mulher, específica da mulher, mas que não é necessariamente o reverso ou contraponto da do homem ou a masculina", disse Ana Luísa Amaral.
Sexo e gender na gramática dos nomes
Em inglês, as diferenças entre poeta ("poet") e poetisa ("poetess") caíram, usando-se agora "poet" para os dois sexos. "A gramática portuguesa é 'gendered'", explica Klobucka, mostrando a dificuldade em encontrar conceitos. Ana Luísa Amaral disse na apresentação: "Tive uma fase em que só queria ser poeta, agora já não me interessa." Klobucka acredita que cada língua terá de fazer a sua própria "prospecção histórica dos usos". Mas admite que, em português, esta dicotomia é complexa, porque a gramática é normativa.
Klobucka apresenta, então, os dois maiores ícones da poesia de mulheres do século XX: Florbela e Sophia, porque ambas representam dois exemplos de mulheres escritoras com papéis muito concretos na vida cultural e social portuguesa dos seus tempos. Florbela é uma pioneira, a primeira mulher a escrever que se assumia enquanto tal. Ela era, disse João Gaspar Simões, "antes de mais nada mulher", falando, como explica Klobucka, "a partir da voz que se afirma enquanto feminina". Sophia, pelo contrário, tem uma voz universal, neutra". Florbela seria, então, uma poetisa: escreve como mulher antes de ser poeta, e Sophia é a "primeira mulher que não escreve como tal, mas como poeta".
Sophia é a primeira autora "em pé de igualdade com escritores masculinos na história da literatura portuguesa. Como se fosse de- 'gendered'." Ou seja: apesar de o género entrar no seu no discurso crítico, "é de mau gosto dizer que ela é uma mulher poeta, porque ela é poeta. Dizer que é mulher é menorizá-la." Klobucka admite que poderá haver em Portugal um "arrepio em falar de Sophia" enquanto mulher, apesar de esta incorporar gestos feministas de revisionismo, na revisitação dos mitos da Grécia.
Luiza Neto Jorge versus Maria Teresa Horta: esta era a primeira versão do ensaio, "good cop, bad cop", que depois Klobucka abandonou. Reconhece que Neto Jorge tem uma reputação literária que a torna na maior poeta do século XX: "Em Luiza não se pode tocar." Teresa Hora é uma poeta feminista assumida que usa as teóricas francesas nos seus próprios textos, co-autora de "Novas Cartas Portuguesas", deixando um legado no feminismo em Portugal. Ao lê-la a par de Neto Jorge, Klobucka está a re-analisar a condição histórica da mulher, não ignorando que na poesia de 61 estavam perguntas "sobre as relações entre a sexualidade marcada pela diferença e a textualidade marcada pelo sexo".
Klobucka admite que foi a contínua observação da cena cultural portuguesa e o surgimento de escritoras como Adília Lopes e Ana Luísa Amaral que lhe mostrou que, nos anos 90, eram as poetas, e não os críticos, "que estavam a fazer coisas que se coadunavam" com a sua perspectiva. "O que não estava a ser feito era o discurso crítico correspondente", diz. Daí que autoras como Lopes e Amaral apresentem um revisionismo histórico-literário, estabelecendo "um diálogo com a tradição", em resposta aos autores canónicos (Camões ou Pessoa) ou em relação aos mitos gregos e à condição da mulher na literatura universal. Este é um dos gestos mais emblemáticos do feminismo. "Adília Lopes tem vários poemas que podiam ser artigos, defendendo uma tese revisionista", entre o cânone e o feminismo, opondo, por exemplo, Fernando Pessoa e Sylvia Plath, o "mestre modernista" e a "mestra feminista".
O mesmo se passa com Ana Luísa Amaral, escritora que afirma ser feminista, "mas a sua escrita, não", explica Klobucka. O gesto feminista de Amaral, como "a poetização da domesticidade, não se constrói como uma reivindicação pioneira mas antes como uma prática consciente pós-feminista", escreve.
Ana Luísa Amaral afirmou que, a partir de agora, estas mulheres partilham, enquanto poetas portuguesas do século XX, e através do trabalho de Klobucka, o "sonho de uma língua comum".
Ípsilon

O Formato Mulher A Emergência da Autoria Feminina na Poesia Portuguesa 
Anna M. Klobucka
Sobre o livro
Ao longo dos últimos cem anos, deixou de ser exclusivo no palco da literatura portuguesa o protagonismo do “sujeito masculino que nos escreve”, no dizer de Eduardo Lourenço. Com rigor teórico, informação histórica minuciosa e por meio de uma série de leituras de textos de referência, O Formato Mulher examina as circunstâncias e as consequências da emergência da autoria feminina no campo cultural da poesia portuguesa moderna, detendo-se nas grandes figuras que elege: Florbela Espanca, Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen, Maria Teresa Horta, Luiza Neto Jorge, Ana Luísa Amaral e Adília Lopes.