23 dezembro 2013

Um Atalho no Tempo - Os Melhores Livros de 2013

Para o blogue O Jardim Assombrado, de Carla Maia de Almeida:


– Como é que isto aconteceu? Não é uma maravilha? Sinto-me como se tivesse acabado de nascer! Já não estou sozinho! Tens noção do que isso significa para mim?
Mas tu és bom no básquete e coisas – protestou Meg. – És bom nas aulas. Toda a gente gosta de ti.
Por todos os motivos mais irrelevantes – disse Calvin. – Ainda não conheci ninguém, ninguém no mundo com que eu possa conversar. Claro, sei portar-me ao mesmo nível que toda a gente, sei diminuir-me, mas esse não sou eu.
Meg tirou um molho de garfos da gaveta e virou-os uma e outra vez, a contemplá-los. 
Estou toda confusa outra vez.
Oh, também eu – disse Calvin alegremente. – Mas agora, pelo menos, sei que vamos para algum lado.

Um Atalho no Tempo, de Madeleine L'Engle, Oficina do Livro, 2013.

[Poucos devem ter dado pela edição em português deste clássico contemporâneo da literatura juvenil, numa colecção em que o ponto fraco são sempre as capas, demasiado banais e infantis. Publicado em 1962, nos EUA, arrebatou vários prémios literários, entre os quais o prestigiado Newbery, atribuído pela Associação das Bibliotecas Americanas. Madeleine L'Engle escreveu um romance de ficção científica - tanto quanto se pode dizer que Ursula K. Le Guin escreve livros de ficção científica - protagonizado por três miúdos inadaptados que investigam o desaparecimento misterioso de um cientista numa missão secreta do governo. À época, os conceitos extraídos da física quântica foram considerados estranhos, bem como a linguagem não-infantilizada e a relevância dada à personagem feminina. Rejeitado dezenas de vezes, tal como Harry Potter, o livro acabou por provar o seu valor. E não envelheceu.] 
 
 Tradução minha :D

11 dezembro 2013

11 - 12 - 13

1. It is the 316th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 49 days remaining until the end of the year.
 
2. David's Bridal estimates that more than 3,000 couples will get married on 11/12/13; compared to Nov. 11 of last year, that’s a 722 percent increase.
 
3. Fueling the rush to the altar on 11/12 this year is the rarity of it: the next consecutively-numbered date doesn’t roll along until Dec. 13, 2014.
 
4. After that, in purest numerical form, another consecutive date won’t mark the calendar again until next century.
 
5. At 2:11:21 a.m., it will be 12/11 2:11:21 which is three repeats of three numbers: 121-121-121.
 
6. At 8:09:10 a.m., the time and date will read as 8:09:10 11/12/13, a full complement of consecutive numbers.
 
7. At 2:15:16 p.m., when stated in military time, it will be 11/12/13 14:15:16; a series of six increasing numbers.
 
8. For a simple sequence, at 9:10 p.m., it will be 9:10 11/12/13.
 
9. At 10:21:11 p.m., when stated in military time, it will be 11/12 22:21:11, which gives us a palindrome of 11122-22111.
 
10. If your inner number nerd is still hungry for more, there are a total of 22 date patterns for 11/12/13 listed on the Date Pattern Calculator.


and
The Guardian asks for celebration ideas...

Latest Doodles celebrating Women

 Needs no introduction
 Celia Cruz - I had the good fortune of watching her perform

"You can have anything you want in life if you dress for it."
The inspiration for Edna Mode in The Incredibles

Profile on the amazing Grace Hopper by Women Rock Science

 Katherine Mansfield
Selma Lagerlöf
Profile of the Human Computer Shakuntala Devi by Women Rock Science

Helena Zmatliková, Illustrator Extraordinaire

05 dezembro 2013

Et la Parole s'est faite Chair

The Word Made Flesh does it again




Une Orange sur la table
Ta robe sur le Tapis
Et toi dans mon lit
Doux présent du présent
Fraîcheur de la nuit
Chaleur de ma vie

- Jacques Prévert

13 novembro 2013

System Down... (the Fine Art of Alberto Montt :)


Sunset Boulevard

BOULEVARD OF BROKEN DREAMS

Few streets in the world are as famous as this one, but we tend to see it through a screen, darkly. Laura Barton gets under the skin of Sunset Boulevard

From INTELLIGENT LIFE magazine, November/December 2013
SIX IN THE morning, Beverly Hills. The air is filled with the aroma of expensive lawns, warming in the pallid sun. Plastic-bound copies of the LA Times lie before wrought iron gates, watched by security cameras, a chatter of birds, a glimpse of pink sky. Stand quite still on the sidewalk here, and the neighbourhood draws into focus. Box hedges, orange trees, the scent of magnolia. The ineluctable neatness of here. 
For several blocks, Sunset Boulevard is home to LA as we know it—millionaires and billionaires, Oscar-winners and entrepreneurs, supermodels and TV shrinks. And over its high fences you catch flickers of affluence: a floodlit basketball court, a sliver of turquoise swimming pool.
But stand a little longer, and you see things that do not fit so neatly. Close to where Sunset meets the curve of Foothill Road, a woman waits at a bus stop. She is nondescript—black coat, white trainers, scarf, short hair, Trader Joe's bag. She speaks softly, as if her voice might ruffle the grass. 
Her name is Petra, and she is a 64-year-old live-in housekeeper. She talks of how she moved to Los Angeles from Peru over two decades ago, and of the longing she still feels for home. Today is Sunday, her day off, so she is going to the Catholic church, two bus rides away in Culver City. The Number 2 bus draws up, and she is swallowed by the soft hiss of the doors. As the bus slides by, the faces in the windows are all Hispanic or black, all weary.
The street resumes its steady composure. A red sports car hums towards the coast, and a woman in white walks in circles in the middle of Arden Drive.
This is a story of belonging and not belonging, of preposterous wealth and immense poverty; of how, in a city where people love to be seen, so many can slip through the cracks unnoticed.
It is also the story of a single street, Sunset Boulevard, a 22-mile vein that goes from the coast to the clutter of downtown, past Sunset Strip, the Church of Scientology and on through Silver Lake. And of how, if you should choose to walk that street, from sunrise to sunset, you will come to see a city unadorned and unmade, a city at odds with itself.
SUNSET WAS ONCE a cattle trail. In the 1780s it ran out of the Pueblo de Los Angeles, west towards the sea. It remained a dirt road until the early 1900s, when it was paved and polished to fit the intentions of a burgeoning city. "The paving of Sunset Boulevard is one of the most important public improvements attempted in Los Angeles," said the Los Angeles Herald in 1909, "and because of this fact has been attended with more than the customary amount of difficulty." The bickering between the rival contractors dragged on for two years, with the Board of Public Works finally awarding the contract to Barber Asphalt, for $181,733.16.
Within a generation, it was given another make-over. In the early 1930s, Sunset Strip—the mile-and-a-half-long stretch that runs through West Hollywood—was paved with thick Portland cement and Warrenite Bitulithic, to match the growth of glamorous casinos and nightclubs along its route.
In the years since, Sunset Boulevard has become shorthand for what Los Angeles represents in the collective imagination. It is the Chateau Marmont and the Whiskey-A-Go-Go, the Hollywood Palladium, Schwab's Drugstore, the Directors' Guild of America and the Hustler store. It evokes extremes, from the spangled American Dream to seedy, untempered excess; the wild and peculiar destination of a country forever looking West.
California is not the draw it once was. Although nearly 740,000 people move there each year, 840,000 leave—many of them heading to Texas and Arizona, where the living is cheaper. Even the Mexicans are going off it, deterred by California's unemployment and an emerging middle class back home. But Los Angeles bucks the trend. In 2010-11, it had 100,000 more people moving in than moving out—along with over 40m tourists, who come for the theme parks and the studio tours, the shopping and the nightlife and the hope that they might just spot a celebrity. Because this is what beckons the newcomers to Los Angeles' hearth: the great, fiery possibility of it all.
AT ALMOST THE precise point where Beverly Hills turns into Sunset Strip, and a short way back from the edge of the pavement, a man of about 50 sits selling Star Maps. Manuel's last job was sewing in a factory, but a lack of business led to job cuts, and now he spends seven hours a day sitting here in the semi-shade, in which time he hopes to sell "maybe four, five, six" maps.
Manuel is not alone in this enterprise. All along Sunset Boulevard you see the gawpers passing by in open-top buses, the Primetime Hollywood mini-trucks full of tourists, all waiting for their cue to snap pictures of Frank Sinatra's former home, or the Rainbow Bar and Grill, where Joe DiMaggio took Marilyn Monroe for their first date, or the shrub that Lindsay Lohan flattened with her Mercedes (she was subsequently arrested). As much as its streets are lined with high-rise towers and Art Deco mansions and Spanish-colonial houses, it is really the myths that make the architecture of this city: the whispered names, the tales of who lived, loved and died here.
It is still early as Sarah the photographer and I reach Sunset Strip; the streets below the high-rises lie smooth and quiet. We can still smell the early lilacs of Beverly Hills, hear the low call of wood pigeons as we pass City National Bank, billboards for Guess jeans and Jack Daniel's. Scratched on an electricity cupboard is a warning: YOUNG HOLLYWOOD WILL PAY.
At this hour, the Strip is largely populated by late-night stragglers and morning street-sweepers. The cleaners in their orange tabards work head-down, tidying all evidence of the evening’s revelry—broken glass swept from patios, beer bottles fished from eucalyptus hedges. A group of young women in short skirts, bare legs and leopard-print heels totter by in a cloud of boozy laughter. In a bus shelter sits a young man wearing shorts, a Chanel earring and elaborate sunglasses, ready to make his weekly journey home from an electronica club. His name is Jake. "I live far," he says sleepily. "It’s in LA county, but it's far." When a woman jogs past, he looks faintly baffled by this strange collision of night and day.
Past the Viper Room, where River Phoenix died 20 years ago, and the clairvoyant and the tattoo parlour, and the window of the Hustler store, with its gimp masks and its stripper shoes and the huge sign that reads: "The Screaming O—Have One Tonight". Past the car-rental store where you can lease a Bentley, the better to impress your date or your business associates. Past the gaggle of Nickelback fans camped outside a plush hotel, hoping to catch a glimpse of them. And on to Book Soup, which has occupied this spot for nearly 40 years. Nicholas, a 63-year-old beautician, is flipping through Paris Match. "I love this place," he says. "It's the only civilised place on the Strip. I first started coming here way back in the early Eighties, when I had a little nook up there, a salon, and the choice was either to come here or get drunk in the bars."
He loves the smell of books, and he likes to buy the European magazines. "It gives me a different perspective," he explains. "There's more truth, more reality than flash. At my age I can't deal with fluff, I need something more in my brain. My daughter says to me 'Dad, what are you doing here? This is La-La Land!'"
LA-LA-LAND is a nickname that seems to have spread from the 1970s onwards, a way to capture the strange and dreamy affectations of this city. To walk Sunset is to be struck not only by the deliberately outlandish characters but by the many mentally disturbed people on its sidewalks: the woman rooting through bins who growled on approach, the man masturbating in a car park, the slink-eyed souls muttering darkly to themselves on street corners.
Then there was the peculiar encounter not far from the intersection with La Brea Avenue, as a normal-looking young man hurtled towards us on a skateboard. He was bare-chested, carrying a guitar and eating an ice cream, and it was only as he drew close that we saw something fractured in his eyes. "Save us!" he barked as he skated by. "Before they all kill us!"
And if the air soured then, it was just as suddenly sweetened by the chirruping of a man sitting among the plants on the verge, his hair a tangle of ribbons and purple plastic, swigging Bud Light from a large water bottle. "I'm in the penthouse!" he called brightly. It would be wrong to say we had a conversation. He spoke as if a string had been pulled to make him talk. Why had he come to Los Angeles, I asked, and he gave a disconcerting grin. "I'm tropical, like a dolphin!" he hollered. "You don't put it in the snow!"
He propositioned us, and upon our polite refusal he launched into Carly Simon's "You’re So Vain". We all sang it, from start to finish, there on the sidewalk.
Back on the Strip, when the day was still young, we stopped by Mel's Drive-in, a 24-hour, 1950s-themed diner offering burgers and pancake stacks and Coke floats. They were playing "Dancing in the Street" and "Beauty School Drop-Out" on the jukebox, as a waitress with bouffant hair and bright pink lipstick delivered a plate of waffles to a plump woman in a leatherette booth. 
At the back, a young woman sat sketching on sheets of hotel notepaper. She was dressed in high-stacked shoes and elaborate eyeliner, and at her elbow sat a half-eaten bowl of apple pie. She frowned when I asked her name and stared for a while. The light through the window made her skin look ashen and her eyes hard. "Sun," she replied eventually.
Sun (above) was born in Belarus and moved to Israel as a child before heading to New York eight years ago to work in a clothing store. Somehow she ended up in Los Angeles, running away from a bad relationship and arriving with a dream of recording with Marilyn Manson. Her voice is heavily accented, her glower at odds with the California day. "I'm super-tired," she says suddenly. "I didn't sleep for like a week."
She tells us she has just been released from jail, where she had been placed for trespassing at the Four Seasons Hotel. "I was just there writing lyrics," she insists, "I was really inspired. And a gentleman…" her sentence trails off then revs up again: "I've been arrested twice in the past week," she says. "The first time was because I started throwing tampons into people's cars. I shouted 'Free tampons everyone! Free tampons!' I was so bored, I needed company, and some guy was walking past and I took the headphones from his ears and I told him 'Whoo! Let’s go party!' But he was scared and he ran away. And then the police stopped me and said 'Are you OK miss?' and I said to them 'I want to drive your car!'" And then she was arrested. Now, she says, she has all these papers—she waves the court documents, squints at the small, dark print. "I wish I could throw them away. I wish I could make toilet paper out of it."
Now she is unsure what to do. The bad relationship was psychologically harmful, she says. “It was hard for me to recover. I thought OK, my goals are acting, art, writing. But they won’t give you the papers for work. And it creates legal problems.”
She is wondering if she can stay with friends, or squat in an empty office block she has seen on Rodeo Drive, but she is more pressingly concerned by a romantic entanglement with a guy named Alex. "We met on Valentine's Day last year," she says. "We met at noon-time in Hollywood. I said to him 'I want to see your eyes.' And I took his sunglasses off and I thought 'Oh! I love him!' I was hypnotised. I said 'I love your brown eyes.' And then we went and bought contact lenses." She sighs. "I don’t understand the differences between hanging out, dating or a relationship here in America. He started telling me he was sleeping with other girls. I wonder what the reality is? Is it a test?"
She shows us her sketches, and her notebook, full of lyrics and half-ideas, doodles and elaborate plans for an ecosystem that will cool the Earth. "I'm writing things to fix the world," she explains. "It sounds stupid, because I don't even have a place to be right now. I have a couple of cents left. But I feel like I have nothing to lose. When you have complete freedom, you realise you can actually survive without money and without sleep." Sometimes, she adds, "you see the moon in the middle of the day. And so sometimes I wonder if this is for real or if I've been punked."
Somewhere between Sun in the diner and the tropical dolphin of a man near La Brea lies a story of this city's lost and lonely and weak, of how easy it is to lose your footing here, to lose your self and your sense of purpose, your job, your home, your friends, your mind. Perhaps the most la-la thing about Los Angeles is the apparent absence of a sufficient safety-net to catch the vulnerable.
THE LOS ANGELES region has one of the highest concentrations of homelessness in America. In the two years from January 2011 to 2013 the number of people living on the streets in the LA city area has increased from 25,539 to 29,682. And it's estimated that a quarter of these people suffer from a severe form of mental illness.
Many congregate downtown, in the area known as Skid Row, with its cardboard-box shelters and shopping carts. "The poor man's underworld," the Pulitzer-prizewinning journalist Hal Boyle called it in 1947. "A cross-section of American futility, the place where men who have lost hope go after they have jettisoned their dreams." But you find this same sense of futility on Sunset too: dirty bodies curled in doorways, a man asleep on a bench, his feet turtled and grey.
The climate here makes it somewhat easier to survive on the streets. It was part of the appeal for Debbie, now 58, who came here a year and a half ago from Michigan. Debbie's story is not unusual: when the bank foreclosed on her house she decided to head west to California, "because I thought it was nice and warm." She had fond memories, too, of a trip she made here when she was a 17-year-old hippie. She stayed in a hotel at first, but nine months ago, when the money ran out, she began sleeping on the street. For a while she moved about from day to day, but now a leg injury means that she can mostly be found tucked under a blanket outside Starbucks. "I watch people go by, I watch the traffic, I think," she says. "Sometimes I get bored, so I take a nap."
Some of the homeless came here with dreams of more than warm weather. A man sits smoking in a bus shelter. He is wearing blue surgical scrubs and listening to "The Essential Michael Jackson". Calvin says he moved to LA from Houston, leaving behind a well-paid job as a surgical technician for a dream of becoming a stand-up comedian. He has a new job lined up, at a surgery centre in Newport Beach, but until then he is surviving from day to day. "I've been on this bench three months," he says, jovially, "and I've got another month till I start work."
The experience has been "pretty interesting," he says. "Some motherfucker stole my food yesterday. And some homeless guys stole my money and my clothes. So this is my life." He gestures towards his rucksack. "Two scrubs, two pairs of underwear. But the police don't mess with me too much."
He put off coming here for years, he says. "It's hard to leave a good job, good money…but my heart kept calling me to LA." Now 40, he has wanted to be a stand-up since he was 15 and watching "Showtime at the Apollo" on TV. This year, he even performed at the Oscars after-party at the Comedy Store. "You hold on to your dreams," he says, and it is only later that I begin to wonder if any of it was true. 
But still they come. On our walk we meet aspiring directors, actors, cinematography students, trainee music producers who dream of writing soundtracks, wide-eyed young men from Sacramento queuing for brunch outside the Griddle. We meet Matt and Bill, smoking cigarettes outside the Guitar Center. They live in the Valley but came here for the weekend to record with their "sorta nu-metal, thrash-metal" band. "Friday was a good night," says Bill. "We got wasted. We had the cops called on us 12 times. And we had to shower our guitarist because he threw up in his hair."
In the summer of 1950, Paramount Pictures released "Sunset Boulevard", the story of an aspiring screenwriter who heads to Los Angeles from Ohio and ends up dead in a swimming pool. It is a cautionary tale, one that encompasses a pet chimpanzee, a faded movie star, and the dangers of both delusion and aspiration. It culminates, famously, with the washed-up actress addressing a great director: "Alright, Mr DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up."


MOST PEOPLE DO not see Hollywood close-up. They see it on their TV screen or in gossip magazines. Even if they come here, they see it through the car window. They see it only to the soundtrack of their car stereo, feel it only in the thud of warm air between air-conditioned vehicle and air-conditioned coffee shop.

When we mention that we are walking the length of Sunset, people look at us in disbelief, assuring us that it was not only dangerous but most definitely weird. At street level, though, you see more: an IBM laptop in a discarded takeaway box holding seven prawns; two men dancing in the back room of a salsa club; the words "Love Is What You Make It" scrawled across a wall. You catch the faded incense as you walk past the Church of the Blessed Sacrament, see Jayne Mansfield's pink suitcase displayed in the window of the Dearly Departed Tours Office and Curiosity Shop, with a sign beside it instructing you to "note the damage".
You meet people like José, a former labour-union worker who, six months ago, opened a taco van here on Sunset. "I'm 52 years old," he smiles, "but this is not a midlife crisis. I am halfway through my life and it is a checkpoint: where are you in life? Where you want to be? I consider this a journey. There's a very bright light at the end of the tunnel. I can see it."
Or Paul, 58, who for the last three months has stood silently outside Orchard Supply Hardware with a sign notifying passers-by of its relocation sale. Normally he works as a kerb painter. Paul grew up in Los Angeles. He remembers Sunset in the Sixties, "when it used to be a lot cleaner. A. Lot. Cleaner." He gets a little bored, he admits, standing here with little to do except watch the traffic and think. Recently he saw a homeless guy pushing a woman into the road. "About a month and a half ago. Right there. He just pushed her. I've been thinking a lot about that guy."
You notice the procession of names: Sunset Gower Studios, Sunset Bronson Studios, Home Depot, Food4Less, Kaiser Permanente, The Hollywood Dialysis Center. You notice the drive-thrus and the billboards, their adverts for "Mad Men" and Adult Con and the Phil Spector biopic, all facing out towards the road rather than to the pedestrians. And in this strange no-man's-land you notice the hulking solidity of the buildings, the cars that sail by so impermeably, the curious absence of life. So that when we chance upon a group of skateboarders outside the Metro station at Vermont and Sunset, we watch them, mesmerised, as they go rolling along the grey marble benches, bodies flung backwards into mid-air, T-shirts flaring. Again, and again, and again. They seem so vibrant.
The mood shifts as we enter Echo Park and Silver Lake. The sidewalks are busier here, full of hipsters walking dogs and eating gelato, standing on ladders and painting murals, physically engaged in the process of gentrification. There are microbreweries and vintage stores, cheese shops and vegan restaurants. People ride bicycles. People even walk.
Gentrification brings odd juxtapositions—designer handbags beside nail salons, tired-looking launderettes pressed up against ashtanga-yoga centres, car-repair shops, liquor stores, pawn shops; a giant American Apparel billboard overlooking a bridge, and, under it, a homeless man on a dilapidated sofa.
The sun is low as we pass the Comfort Inn. A woman stands against the wall of the parking lot, wearing a tracksuit and smoking a cigarette, her face tilted upwards, soaking up the late warmth of the day.
She looks down over the wall to talk to us. Her name is Alicia and she is here from Phoenix, Arizona, for her daughter’s "X Factor" audition tomorrow. Her daughter, Savannah, is 16. "She’s real good," she assures us. "Some people say that because it's their child. Well that's not the case. All of her teachers, everybody, they say how good she is."
She calls Savannah to come down and join us. While we wait, Alicia tells us her thoughts on Los Angeles: "Everybody's lost their mind," she says, her breath clouded with cigarette smoke. "I've had relatives out here, they've come here for their dream and they've been used, ended up on drugs and homeless."
Savannah appears by the wall. She is a sweet, sensible-looking girl with soft eyes and a pretty oval face. Tomorrow at her audition, she will sing an Etta James song, "All I Could Do Was Cry". 
"I like the words," she says, "the concept of it, how she sings, how she builds it up."
There outside the Comfort Inn, Savannah begins to sing. She closes her eyes and lifts her voice over the roar of the traffic on Sunset. "Ohhh, I heard church bells ringing," she sings, her voice rich and dusky and warm. "I heard a choir singing/I saw my love walk down the aisle/On her finger he placed a ring…"
And as we stand quite still on the sidewalk here, the scene once more draws into focus. A scruffy stretch of road. The silence that follows song. The bright, enchanting promise of this city.



Wishlist: Lisboa Vista do Céu

Editado há quase 20 anos, em 1994, o livro Lisboa Vista do Céu é agora republicado pela Argumentum Edições. «Esta nova edição será enriquecida com dezenas de imagens antigas (desde 1917 até aos anos 70), com imagens atuais (de outubro deste ano) e tornar-se-á um ex-libris da cidade», pode ler-se em comunicado da editora.

No mesmo comunicado, a Argumentum explica que «o livro tem um custo de produção de 25 000€ e conta apenas com o apoio da Câmara Municipal de Lisboa, que fica aquém de 20% desse valor». Como tal, a editora está a recorrer a uma campanha de venda antecipada da obra. Desta forma, atingindo as 400 vendas, a edição do livro será possível. A venda antecipada do livro garante um desconto especial de 30 por cento.

«Lisboa Vista do Céu é o livro onde se ilustra toda a cidade de Lisboa e o Rio Tejo, através de uma narrativa visual, constituída por cerca de 200 imagens, comentadas pela historiadora Maria Calado».

Visto no Blogtailors

A página da Argumentum pouco ou nada explica :(

23 outubro 2013

Fragments: Poems, Intimate Notes, Letters - by Marilyn Monroe


I guess I have always been
deeply terrified
atto really be someone’s
wife
since I know from life
one cannot love another,
ever, really


 *


Only parts of us will ever
touch
onlyparts of others –
one’s own truth is just that really — one’s own truth.
We can only share the part that is
understood bywithin another’s knowing acceptable
to
the other — therefore
so one
is for most part alone.
As it is meant to be in
evidently in nature — at best
thoughperhaps it could make
our understanding seek
another’s loneliness out.

*
Life –
I am of both of your directions
Life
Somehow remaining hanging downward
the most
but strong as a cobweb in the
wind — I exist more with the cold glistening frost.
But my beaded rays have the colors I’ve
seen in a painting
s— ah life they
have cheated you

*

Oh damn I wish that I were
dead — absolutely nonexistent –
gone away from here — from
everywhere but how would I
do it
There is always bridges — the Brooklyn
bridge

– no not the Brooklyn Bridge
because
But I love that bridge (everything is beautiful from there and the air is so clean) walking it seems
peaceful
thereeven with all those
cars going crazy underneath. So
it would have to be some other bridge
an ugly one and with no view — except
I
particularlylike in particular all bridges — there’s some-
thing about them and besides
theseI’ve
never seen an ugly bridge

*

Stones on the walk
every color there is
I stare down at you
like
these thea horizon –
the space / the air is between us beckoning
and I am many stories
besidesup
my feet
arefrightened
from myas I grasp
fortowards you

*

feel what I feel
within myself — that is trying to
become aware of it
also what I feel in others
not being ashamed of my feeling, thoughts — or ideas
realize the thing that
they are –
 *

I’m finding that sincerity
and
tryingto be
assimple or direct as (possible) I’d like
is often taken for sheer stupidity
but since it is not a sincere world –
it’s very probable that being sincere is stupid.
One probably is stupid to
be sincere since it’s in this world
and no other world that we know
for sure we exist — meaning that –
(since reality exists it
should be must be dealtshould be met and dealt with)
since there is reality to deal with

*

To have your heart is
the only completely happy proud
possessionthing (that ever belonged
to me) I’ve ever possessed so

*

Found at Brain Pickings

22 outubro 2013

Nepenthe's Rajah, king of the pitcher plants

 

When first seen by botanist and explorer Joseph Dalton Hooker in 1859, he described them as "one of the most striking vegetable productions hither-to discovered," but it wasn't until 1862 that someone first notice just how unusual these plants really were.
Nepenthes Rajah is the largest of the pitcher plants, and is also the largest carnivorous plant in the world, sometimes referred to as the King of the Pitcher Plants. It is essentially a trap filled with up to three and half liters of water and two and a half liters of digestive fluid. It is evolved to lure insects to it, and when the insects fall in, they are unable to escape and are digested by the plant. While insects, particularly ants, are by far the Giant Malaysian Pitcher Plant (aka the Rajah Brooke's Pitcher Plant, aka the King of Nepenthes, aka Nepenthes rajah) main staple, occasionally the large plants catch bigger prey.
On a number of occasions rats have been found half-digested inside the pitchers, and other small vertebrates such as small birds, lizards and frogs occasionally fall victim to the plants as well. This and one other pitcher plant, the N. rafflesiana, are the only plants known to catch mammalian prey.
Among other unusual traits of the plant is a peculiar relationship with local shrews, one that may in fact be the origin of their large size. The plants have evolved to entice and attract tree shrews. The shape and size of the pitcher plants forces the shrews - who want to mark their feeding territory - to defecate directly into the plants cups providing them with valuable nitrogen. And while it is rare for the plants to catch rats and mice, shrews poop in them all the time.
This beneficial relationship between the pitcher plants and small mammals depositing feces into them may in fact turn out to be a driving factor behind the evolution of most large pitcher plants.

18 outubro 2013

The Women and the Thrones




1.

About halfway through A Clash of Kings, the second installment of George R.R. Martin’s epic fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire, a refugee princess—she is fourteen years old but already a widow, has silver hair and purple eyes, and happens to be part dragon—stands exhausted before the walls of a fabulous, vaguely Babylonian citadel called Qarth. The last surviving scion of the deposed ruling family of a faraway land called Westeros, she has led a ragtag band of followers through the desert in the hopes of finding shelter here—and, ultimately, of obtaining military and financial support for her plan to recapture the Westerosi throne. Her first glimpse of Qarth leaves her bemused:
Three thick walls encircled Qarth, elaborately carved. The outer was red sandstone, thirty feet high and decorated with animals: snakes slithering, kites flying, fish swimming, intermingled with wolves of the red waste and striped zorses and monstrous elephants. The middle wall, forty feet high, was grey granite alive with scenes of war: the clash of sword and shield and spear, arrows in flight, heroes at battle and babes being butchered, pyres of the dead. The innermost wall was fifty feet of black marble, with carvings that made Dany blush until she told herself that she was being a fool. She was no maid; if she could look on the grey wall’s scenes of slaughter, why should she avert her eyes from the sight of men and women giving pleasure to one another?
However difficult it may be for Daenerys (“Dany”) Targaryen to make sense of the exotic city and its people, anyone familiar with Martin’s slowly metastasizing epic—it began as a trilogy in 1996 and now runs to five volumes of a projected seven, each around a thousand pages long—will find it hard not to see in the Qartheen decor a sly reference to the series itself. What drives A Song of Ice and Fire is a war story: clearly inspired by the Wars of the Roses, the series traces the internecine power struggles among a group of aristocratic clans, each with its castle, lord, “sigil” or heraldic arms, and lineages, following the not entirely accidental death, in the first novel, of King Robert I of the Seven Kingdoms. Robert had seized the throne from Daenerys’s father at the end of a previous civil war, thereby ending the Targaryens’ three-century-long rule. The civil wars that follow Robert’s death will stretch from Westeros—whose culturally diverse regions, evoked by Martin in ingenious detail, form the Seven Kingdoms—across the Narrow Sea to the exotic East, where Dany Targaryen, as we know, plans to make her own power play.
These bloody struggles take place in a world whose culture is, on the whole, familiar-looking—Martin gives the civilization of the Seven Kingdoms a strong medieval flavor—but whose flora and fauna remind you why the novels are classified as “fantasy.” Westeros may have castles and drawbridges, knights, squires, and jousts, “sers” and ladies, and a capital city, King’s Landing, that looks and smells a lot like late-medieval London, but it also has giants, shape-shifters called “wargs,” blue-eyed walking dead known as “wights,” seasons that last for decades, red-faced “weirwood” trees that grow in sacred groves called “godswoods”—and, of course, dragons. At the end of the first novel, Daenerys emerges from a fire holding three newly hatched specimens that, you suspect, will greatly improve her chances of gaining the throne.
Against this wildly inventive natural (often supernatural) backdrop, the books’ characters engage in a good deal of unsentimental fornication that is not without a certain imaginative élan of its own. “In a cushioned alcove,” one not atypical scene begins, a drunken man “with a purple beard dandled a buxom young wench on his knee. He’d unlaced her bodice and was tilting his cup to pour a thin trickle of wine over her breasts so he might lap it off.” The pubescent Dany, as she herself acknowledges, is no innocent: deprived of the attentions of her dead husband, she now and then accepts the ministrations of a teenaged handmaiden. Why avert her eyes, indeed?
War, fantasy, sex: averting one’s eyes from at least two of these became a hot issue when Game of Thrones, the hit HBO television adaptation of Martin’s books, began airing in April 2011. From the start, the show’s graphic representations of violence (you lose count pretty early on of the times blood pumps out of gaping throat wounds) and of sexuality—of female nudity in particular—have led many critics and viewers to dismiss the series as “boy fiction.” (Thus the New York Times critic; the climactic section of a shrewder, more appreciative review by the New Yorker critic began, “Then, of course, there are the whores.”)1
And yet the show has been a tremendous hit. This is, in part, a testament to the way in which fantasy entertainment—fiction, television, movies, games—has moved ever closer to the center of mass culture over the past couple of decades, as witness the immense success of the Lord of the Rings adaptations, the Harry Potter phenomenon, and the Hunger Games books and movies. What’s interesting is that the HBO Game of Thrones has attracted so many viewers who wouldn’t ordinarily think of themselves as people who enjoy the fantasy genre. This has a great deal to do with the complex satisfactions of Martin’s novels, whose plots, characterization, and overall tone the series reproduces with remarkable fidelity—and whose mission is, if anything, to question and reformulate certain clichés of the fantasy/adventure genre about gender and power.

2.

At first glance, A Song of Ice and Fire can look like a testosterone-fueled swashbuckler. The first novel (and the first season of the TV show; until recently, the show was tracking Martin’s books at a pace of roughly one book per season) introduces the ambitious patriarchs who were on the winning side of “the War of the Usurper”—the rebellion that had rent Westeros asunder and ended with the murder of the mad, bad King Aerys Targaryen, young Dany’s father—and who, along with their clans and feudal allies, will struggle for power once again.
The present king, Robert of House Baratheon, is Henry VIII–esque in temperament—he is always roaring at terrified squires and bedding buxom wenches—but Henry VII–like in his historical role. It was he who led the rebel forces against Mad King Aerys, whose other children and grandchildren Robert’s men brutally slaughtered after seizing the throne. Robert’s wife, Queen Cersei (pronounced “Circe,” like the sultry witch in theOdyssey) belongs to House Lannister, a wealthy, golden-haired, black-souled clan who are the Boleyns to Robert’s Henry VIII: the patriarch, the coldblooded Tywin Lannister, endlessly schemes on behalf of his unruly children, nephews, and siblings by whatever means may be called for.
The royal marriage was, indeed, one of political convenience: the Lannisters supported Robert’s rebellion with money and arms, and Tywin aims to see his descendants on the throne. As the first novel unfolds we understand that the marriage has failed—not least because Cersei prefers her twin brother, the handsome knight Jaime, who is in fact the father of her three children. The most interesting member of the Lannister family—and by far the most interesting male character in the series—is the other brother, Tyrion, a hard-drinking, wisecracking dwarf whose outsider status gives him a soulfulness his relations lack. (The role is played with great verve by Peter Dinklage, one of many strong actors on the show.)
Staunchly loyal to Robert and just as staunchly wary of the evil Lannisters is Eddard “Ned” Stark of Winterfell, the king’s “Hand” or chief minister, a gruffly ethical northern lord who, along with his family—his wife Catelyn, their five children, and a bastard whom he has lovingly raised as his own—provides the violent goings-on with a strong emotional focus. After Robert dies during a hunting accident engineered by his wife’s relatives, Ned finds himself locked in a struggle for the regency with the Lannisters, who have placed Cersei’s eldest son, Joffrey, a Caligula-like teenaged sadist, on the throne. But because the high-minded Ned is insufficiently ruthless, his plan backfires, with fatal results for himself and the Stark family. One of the pleasures of Martin’s series is the grimly unsentimental, rather Tacitean view it takes of the nature and uses of power at court. Often, the good guys here do not win.
Indeed, the shocking climax of the first book—Joffrey’s surprise execution of Ned, who up to this point you’d figured was the protagonist—is a strong sign that Martin’s narrative arc is going to be far more surprising than you could have guessed. “When my characters are in danger,” the author said in an interview, “I want you to be afraid to turn the page…you need to show right from the beginning that you’re playing for keeps.” A sense that brutal, irreversible real-life consequences will follow from the characters’ actions—rare in serial novels and almost unheard of in television series, which of course often depend on the ongoing presence of popular characters (and actors) for their continued appeal—is part of the distinctive tone of Martin’s epic. I suspect that one reason Game of Thrones has seduced so many of my writer friends, people who have either no taste for fantasy or no interest in television, is precisely that its willingness to mete out harsh consequences, rather than dreaming up ways to keep its main characters alive for another season, feels more authentic, more “literary” than anything even the best series in this new golden age of television can provide.
After Ned’s death, the multiplying plotlines adhere, for the most part, to the various Starks. The widow Catelyn (splendidly played by Michelle Fairley), a complex character who oscillates between admirable strength and dangerous weakness, and her eldest son, Robb, lead a new civil war against the triumphant Lannisters. Her son Bran, crippled after being unceremoniously defenestrated by the corrupt Jaime Lannister, finds that he is gifted with second sight and has the ability to inhabit the body of a giant wolf; the beautiful young Sansa, once betrothed to Cersei’s son Joffrey, now finds herself a terrified political hostage in King’s Landing; and the plain but spirited Arya, a girl of nine when the story begins, is separated from the rest and starts on an unusual spiritual and emotional journey of her own.
And then there is Jon Snow, ostensibly Ned Stark’s bastard. (“Ostensibly,” because there are proliferating hints that he is the love child of two other significant characters, long dead.) The most sympathetic of the younger generation of male Starks, Jon is a spirited but troubled youth who, in the first novel, goes off to join something called the Night’s Watch. Informally known as “Crows,” this black-clad cohort, part monk and part warrior, vowed to celibacy and trained to arms, culled from the realm’s rich stores of bastards, criminals, and political exiles, man “the Wall,” a fabulous seven-hundred-foot-high edifice that runs across the entire northern border of Westeros. Clearly modeled on Hadrian’s Wall (much of Westeros’s topography reminds you of Great Britain’s), the Wall, one of Martin’s most striking creations, is meant to protect the realm against the giants, monsters, undead, and the unruly clan of “Wildlings” who inhabit the frozen region to the north—and who, when the action of A Song of Ice and Fire begins, have begun, terrifyingly, to move southward for the first time in thousands of years. The novels are strewn with ominous portents—not least, a red comet that illuminates the sky for much of the second novel—of an imminent, cataclysmic confrontation between the supernatural and natural worlds.
The Wall is one of the three geographical centers of the sprawling action, the other two being King’s Landing in the Italianate south, where the Lannisters endlessly machinate, and the exotic Eastern lands beyond the Narrow Sea, where Daenerys plots her comeback. (In the HBO series, shot mostly in Ireland and on Malta, each locale has its own color palette: cool blues and hard whites for the Wall, tawny soft-focus gold for King’s Landing, and saturated tropical hues for the East.)
Martin renders the Eastern cultures in particular with Herodotean gusto: the nomadic, Scythian-like, horse-worshiping Dothraki, to one of whose great warlords Daenerys is bartered when the saga begins (their unborn child is referred to as “the Stallion Who Mounts the World”); the quasi-Assyrian city-states of Qarth, Astapur, and Meereen, with their chattering merchants and unctuous slavers (and warlocks); the decadent port of Braavos, a cross between Switzerland and Venice, whose moneylenders finance the Westerosi wars, and where young Arya finds herself, at the end of Book 5, an acolyte in a temple of death.
But what keeps you riveted, in the end, are the characters and their all-too-familiar human dilemmas. Jon Snow on the frozen Wall, torn between family loyalty and duty to his vows; Dany, both his counterpart and his opposite, far away in the burning Eastern deserts, learning the art of statecraft even as she dreams of love; the vindictive Lannisters and fugitive Starks, conniving and being betrayed by their various “bannermen”: these people and many more suggest why Martin likes to paraphrase William Faulkner’s remark, in his Nobel speech, that the only great subject is “the human heart in conflict with itself.” (A question worth raising about Martin’s novels is how different they’d feel if you subtracted the dragons and witches and undead; my feeling is, not much.)
One of the few serious missteps that Martin has made in his grand project was, indeed, to abandon most of these characters and locales in the fourth novel, A Feast for Crows, introducing instead a group of new characters, cultures, and dynastic schemers. I read each of the first three novels in a few days, happily addicted; it took me a month to get through the fourth, because I simply didn’t care about these strangers. It will be interesting to see how the writers of HBO’s Game of Thrones, which cannot afford to try the patience of its audience, handle this lapse.
It’s a point worth wondering about precisely because the TV series has followed the outlines of Martin’s action, and his various tangled subplots, with such fidelity. The very few deviations I noticed have no significant repercussions. Sometimes, the writers on the show have invented material that brings home Martin’s important themes in a pungently dramatic way. There’s an amusing scene in Season 2 when, in response to an unctuous minister’s smirking suggestion that “knowledge is power,” Cersei, now riding high as queen regent, suddenly orders her bodyguards to seize the courtier and cut his throat—and then, at the last moment, to release him unharmed. As the terrified man sags with relief, the queen looks at him and says, “Power is power.” (The one-note, smirky performance of Lena Headey in this crucial role is a major weakness of the TV show; far worse is the tinny portrayal of Daenerys by Emilia Clarke, an untalented lightweight who accidentally succeeds in conveying the early Dany—the cowering virgin—but can’t come close to bringing across the character’s touching complexity, the girlishness and the ferocity combined.)
Inevitably, the TV series can’t reproduce, or must violently compress, much of the novels’ most entertaining material—the elaborate back-stories that give helpful context to certain plotlines, the biographies of complicated and interesting secondary characters who, in the screen adaptation, are reduced to little more than walk-ons. (The most regrettable instance of this is the treatment of the admirable “Onion Knight,” Davos Seaworth, the loyal Hand to one of the pretenders to the throne—a man whose rise to power came at the cost of four fingers, the bones of which he good-naturedly wears around his neck as a reminder of how dangerous it is to deal with the great and powerful.) Nor is there really a way to render, in a dramatization, Martin’s imaginative linguistic evocations of his invented cultures: the compound coinages that replace standard English (“sellsword” for “mercenary,” “holdfast” for “fort”), the ingeniously quasi-medieval diction and spellings of names, the perfumed language—the horses called destriers and palfreys, the gowns of vair and samite—that give you a strong sense of the concrete reality of this imagined world.
An omission on the part of the Game of Thrones writers that is less venial is the elision of a major theme: religion. From his earliest published work, Martin has shown an unusually strong interest in serious religious questions. His first Hugo Award–winning science fiction story, “A Song for Lya” (1974), is about two telepaths sent to a planet whose ostensibly primitive inhabitants have achieved a kind of religious transcendence unavailable to humans; in what may be his most famous single short story, the creepy “Sandkings” (1980, also a Hugo winner), a man plays god to a colony of insectoid worshipers who are more sapient than he credits, with gruesome results. (Both stories have now been collected in the two-volume set Dreamsongs.)
No wonder, then, that the action of A Song of Ice and Fire seems to be leading not only to a resolution of the dynastic question, but to a grand showdown among three major religions whose histories, theologies, and ritual practices Martin evokes in impressive detail. There is the easygoing polytheist pantheon of “the Seven,” the religion of the indolent South (complete with priests and priestesses called septons and septas, who worship at temples called septs); the Druidic, tree-based animistic worship of the Northern clans, which we learn was the older religion superseded by the “southron” gods (“The trees will teach you. The trees remember.”); and the unforgiving, vaguely Semitic Eastern cult, now infiltrating Westeros, of “the one true god”—a fiery “lord of light” with the nicely Semitic name “R’hllor,” who insists on a furious moral absolutism, and who enjoys the occasional auto-da-fé. “If half of an onion is black with rot,” R’hllor’s terrifying priestess, Melisandre, tells Davos Seaworth, who has good-naturedly observed that most men are a mixture of good and evil, “it is a rotten onion. A man is good, or he is evil.”
These religious motifs are more than window dressing: there is a strong suggestion that the “fire” of Martin’s title for the entire series refers not only to Dany, with her fire-breathing pets, but to the fire-god R’hllor, and that the “ice” refers not only to Jon Snow but to the old northern gods who animate dead men; and hence that the climax to which the entire epic is moving is not only political but metaphysical.
It’s too bad then that, of all this, the writers on the series have focused only on Melisandre and her fiery deity—likely because she triggers so many plot points. I don’t think that the theological preoccupations of Martin’s novels—grittily realistic, for all the fantasy—raise them, in the end, to the level of, say, Lord of the Rings, whose grandly schematic clash of good and evil, nature and culture, homely tradition and industrialized progress gives it the high Aeschylean sheen of political parable, the enduring literary resonance of cultural myth. But the not inconsiderable appeal of A Song of Ice and Fire lies as much in its thematic ambitions as in its richly satisfying details, and the former ought to be a salient feature of any serious adaptation.

3.

Martin’s medieval narrative, the distinctly Anglo-Saxon milieus alternating with exotic “oriental” locales, everywhere bears traces of the author’s deep affection for the rather old-fashioned boys’ adventure stories that, he has said, formed him as a writer—not least Walter Scott’s crusader romance Ivanhoe, but also Arthur Conan Doyle’s The White Company and Thomas B. Costain’s The Black Rose, stories in which European men have grand adventures when they wander into exotic, often Eastern cultures and climates. On his blog, Martin recommends these texts, along with a number of classic sci-fi and fantasy titles, to readers who ask what they should be reading while waiting for the next George R.R. Martin book.
Given those literary antecedents, it’s striking that a strong leitmotif of the series is pointed criticism by various characters of “chivalry,” of romantic stories about knights and fair maidens—of, you might say, “fantasy” itself. In the third and, perhaps, most violent novel, A Storm of Swords, Dany, whose ongoing political education leaves her with fewer and fewer illusions, ruefully acknowledges a childish yearning for stories “too simple and fanciful to be true history,” in which “all the heroes were tall and handsome, and you could tell the traitors by their shifty eyes.” It’s as if Martin is drawing a line between his work and an earlier, more naive phase of fantasy literature.
The purest expression of this disdain for naive “romance” is put in the mouth of the dwarf, Tyrion, who understands better than any other male character what it means to be on the outside—on the other side of the myth. After a battle, he declares that he is
done with fields of battle, thank you…. All that about the thunder of the drums, sunlight flashing on armor, magnificent destriers snorting and prancing? Well, the drums gave me headaches, the sunlight flashing on my armor cooked me up like a harvest day goose, and those magnificent destriers shit everywhere.
The juxtaposition of “magnificent” and “shit” is pointed: this is a mock-medieval epic that constantly asks us not to be fooled by romance, to see beyond the glitter to the gore, to the harsh reality that power leaves in its wake, whatever the bards may sing. There’s a marvelous moment in the second novel when a knight notices the sigil, or arms, of some legendary warriors above the door of a tavern. “They were the glory of their House,” the knight mournfully observes. “And now they are a sign above an inn.” Martin’s willingness to question the traditional allure of his own genre gives his epic an unusually complex and satisfying texture.
As it happens, the knight at the inn is a woman—a most unusual character. In fact, nowhere is the unexpected subversive energy of A Song of Ice and Fire more in evidence than in its treatment of its female characters—the element that has provoked the strongest controversy in discussions of the HBO adaptation.2
Almost from the start, Martin weaves a bright feminist thread into his grand tapestry. It begins early on in the first book, when he introduces the two Stark daughters. The eldest, Sansa, is an auburn-haired beauty who loves reading courtly romances, does perfect needlework, and always dresses beautifully; in striking contrast to this conventional young woman is the “horsefaced” younger daughter, Arya, who hates petit point and would rather learn how to wield a sword. (Later on, she gets a sword that she sardonically names “Needle”: she too, as we will see, plays for keeps.) At one point early in the first novel Arya asks her father whether she can grow up to “be a king’s councilor and build castles”; he replies that she will “marry a king and rule his castle.” The canny girl viciously retorts, “No, that’s Sansa.”
The two girls represent two paths—one traditional, one revolutionary—that are available to Martin’s female characters, all of whom, at one point or another, are starkly confronted by proof of their inferior status in this culture. (In a moment from the second novel that the HBO adaptation is careful to replicate, Ned Stark’s widow Catelyn realizes that Robb doesn’t think his hostage sisters are worth negotiating for, although his murdered father would have been: they’re simply not worth what a man is.) Those who complained about the TV series’ graphic and “exploitive” use of women’s bodies are missing the godswood for the weirwood trees: whatever the prurient thrills they provide the audience, these demeaning scenes, like their counterparts in the novels, also function as a constant reminder of what the main female characters are escaping from. “I don’t want to have a dozen sons,” one assertive young princess tells a suitor, “I want to have adventures.”
All the female figures in Martin’s world can be plotted at various points on the spectrum between Sansa and Arya Stark. It’s significant that the older generation tend to be less successful (and more destructive) in their attempts at self-realization, while the younger women, like Arya and Daenerys, are able to embrace more fully the independence and power they grasp at. Cersei Lannister is a figure whose propensity to evil, we are meant to understand, results from her perpetually thwarted desire for independence, as is made clear in a remarkable speech she is given at the end of A Clash of Kings (reproduced faithfully in the TV series):
When we were little, Jaime and I were so much alike that even our lord father could not tell us apart. Sometimes as a lark we would dress in each other’s clothes and spend a whole day each as the other. Yet even so, when Jaime was given his first sword, there was none for me. “What do I get?” I remember asking. We were so much alike, I could never understand why they treated us so differently. Jaime learned to fight with sword and lance and mace, while I was taught to smile and sing and please. He was heir to Casterly Rock, while I was to be sold to some stranger like a horse, to be ridden whenever my new owner liked, beaten whenever he liked, and cast aside in time for a younger filly. Jaime’s lot was to be glory and power, while mine was birth and moonblood.
This is an arresting echo of the Greek notion that childbirth is for women what warfare is for men.
Cersei is a portrait of a tragic pre-feminist queen—someone out of Greek drama, a Clytemnestra-like figure who perpetrates evil because her idea of empowerment rises no higher than mimicking the worst in the men around her. (She ruefully remarks at one point that she “lacked the cock.”) By contrast, Dany Targaryen can be seen as a model of a new feminist heroine. Apart from the Starks, it is she who commands our attention from book to book, learning, growing, evolving into a real leader. We first see her as a timid bride, sold by her whiny brother Viserys, the Targaryen pretender, to a savage nomadic warlord whose men and horses the brother wants to secure for his own claim. But eventually Dany edges her brother aside, wins the respect of both the warlord and his macho captains, and grows into an impressive political canniness herself.
This evolution is pointed: whereas Viserys feels entitled to the throne, what wins Dany her power is her empathy, her fellow feeling for the oppressed: she, too, has been a refugee, an exile. As she makes her way across the Eastern lands at the head of an increasingly powerful army, she goes out of her way to free slaves and succor the sick, who acclaim her as their “mother.” She doesn’t seize power, she earns it. What’s interesting is that we’re told she can’t bear children: like Elizabeth I, she has substituted political for biological motherhood. Unlike the frustrated Cersei, Daenerys sees her femininity as a means, rather than an impediment, to power.
And so Martin’s saga goes to considerable lengths to create alternatives to the narratives of male growth, the boys’ Bildungsromane, that have, until relatively recently, been the mainstay of so many myths and so much fantasy literature. “Boy’s fiction”? If anything, it’s possible to see in characters like the feisty Arya an antecedent of the protagonists of such popular contemporary Young Adult series as The Hunger Games, in which the “heroes” are girls. Whatever climax it may be leading to, however successfully it realizes its literary ambitions, George R.R. Martin’s magnum opus is a remarkable feminist epic.

15 outubro 2013

Sonnets from the Portuguese in Rebel Angels :)

by Libba Bray


I take it to the sofa and tear away the paper. It's a copy of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Sonnets from the Portuguese. "Oh," I say, hoping I don't sound as disappointed as I feel. "A book."
"It was your mother's. They were her favorites. She used to read them to me in the evenings." He breaks off, unable to continue.
“Father?" He pulls me to him, holding me close.
"I'm glad you're home, Gemma."

The San Francisco Exodus

My friends keep moving to Oakland. Gone from San Francisco for greener pastures and cheaper rents, because it’s just gotten too hard, by which I really mean too expensive. Their move signals that something has gone terribly wrong in this most progressive of American cities.
In some ways, we came by the problem innocently. San Francisco had the good fortune to be one of the very few 19th century industrial cities to successfully make the transition to a new, post-industrial economic base. It wasn’t just bohemians who set up shop here—all kinds of entrepreneurs and creative business people decided to call San Francisco home. As wave after wave of older industrial jobs moved out of town, new types of work were created to replace them.
At the same time, San Francisco was a great place to live. Partly from historical inheritance and partly from the work of activists who chose to make the city the focus of their activism, the city remained a walkable, urban paradise compared to most of America.
A great quality of life and a lot of high-paying professional jobs meant that a lot of people wanted to live here. And they still do.
But the city did not allow its housing supply to keep up with demand. San Francisco was down-zoned (that is, the density of housing or permitted expansion of construction was reduced) to protect the "character" that people loved. It created the most byzantine planning process of any major city in the country. Many outspoken citizens did—and continue to do—everything possible to fight new high-density development or, as they saw it, protecting the city from undesirable change.