dissabte, 29 de maig del 2010

Rathenau und Speer

"Erich Ludendorffs ärgste Sorge war, dass er nicht genug Soldaten haben würde, um den Krieg zu Ende führen. Das hatte Walther Rathenau schon bei der heftigen Diskussion um die Annexion Polen mitbekommen. Also macht er Vorschläge, die Ludendorff in diesem Punkt entgegenkommen. So rät er am 16. September 1916 zu einer Vorgehensweise, die in der Obersten Heeresleitung sofort Aufmerksamkeit erfährt: Um das durch Druck von Ober-Ost aufgelegte Hindenburg-Programm, die totale Mobilisierung aller verfügbaren Kräfte für die Rüstung, besser voranzubringen, sollten 700,000 Zwangsarbeiter im besetzten Belgien ausgehoben und nach Deutschland gebracht werden. Ursprünglich war nur von 100,000 bis 200,000 Mann die Rede gewesen. Doch in einem Brief vom 23 Oktober 1916 machte Rathenau sich für ein weit grösseres Kontingent stark - und nicht nur in Belgien, sondern auch in Polen.

Das war ein Verstoss gegen die damals geltende Haager Landkriegsordnung, die Zwangsdeportationen für die heimische Rüstung verbot. Zum Glück scheiterte dieses Projekt schon daran, dass das gloriose Hindenburg-Programm sich als Flop erwies. Dennoch hatte Rathenau mit diesem Vorschlag eine Line überschritten. Er hatte nicht mehr nur die friedliche Wirtschaft zum Kriegsdienst umorganisiert, was man ihm noch verziehen hatte, er wollte nun - wie später auch Albert Speer - Menschen mit Gewalt zur Arbeit für Deutschland zwingen.

Dies war sein grösster Fehler. Obwohl kein Mensch zu Schaden kam - Rathenau Zwangsrekrutierungsprogramm kam nicht einmal in eine Erprobungsphase -, kostete es ihn Jahre seines Lebens. Als der Krieg verloren war, wollte niemand etwas mit ihm zu tun haben, und die Alliierten dachten kurzzeitig daran, ihn vor ein Kriegsgericht zu stellen."

Wolfgang Brenner, Walther Rathenau. Deutscher un Jude.

(Quick Translation: Erich Ludendorff's worst fear was that he would not have enough soldiers to bring the war to an end. Walther Rathenau was aware of this concern since the discussion they held about the annexion of Poland... On September 16th, 1916, Rathenau suggested a new strategy that received a prompt interest from the Head of the Army: he suggested, in order to better apply the Hindenburg Plan, the complete mobilization for the arms industry of all the available manpower resources,
to conscript 700,000 forced workers in occupied Belgium and move them to Gemany. Originally it was said that the required number was of about 100,000 to 200,000 men. Furthermore, on a letter dated on October 23rd, 1916, Rathenau supported an increase of the contingent [of slaves], and not only from Belgium but also from Poland. The deportation of forced workforce was a violation of the former Hague Convention. Fortunately, the Hindenburg project was cancelled because it was a failure. Nevertheless, Rathenau had crossed a red line. He had not only organized the [German] economy in war time - something that could be pardoned -, but he wanted now to force people to work for Germany - like later Albert Speer did . It was his biggest mistake. Despite that no person was harmed - Rathenau Forced labour program was not even tested -, it cost him years of his life [to correct]. When the war was lost, nobody wanted to do have any relation with Rathenau, and the Allies thought for a while to court-martial him.)

dimarts, 25 de maig del 2010

Young savage

"The Jekyll-Hyde of you
I can't survive the tide of you.
The vicious style of love, the whining.
Pits and pendulums of lying.
I don't see how you survive in.
Hard-line worlds you're advertising.
Sneaky features? Waiting.
City sex is so frustrating.

Young savage
Young savage
She's like a steel wall
Speaks like a dance hall.
Young savage
Young savage
Anything goes where no-one knows your name.

The mirror love of vixens
Gets over the mask of victims
Money rents you insulation
Tenderness, asphyxiation
Someone else's flesh to borrow
Sling it from your bed tomorrow
In the passport of our sorrow
Look behind the face it's hollow.

The broken heart of you
Who stole, who stole a part of you
Changing blossoms into piss
And taking bites from every kiss
The past is dead, tomorrow's too far
All the chemicals that bar us
Coloured hair, cheap tattoos
That tell you all their points of view.

Condemned to be a stranger
Subway dweller, dead-end danger
Peeking through the dust of friends
Who never gave, they'd only lend
Every sneer is thrown away
With practised gestures of disdain
The outlaw stance is so pedantic
Hate the world, it's so romantic."

Ultravox, Young Savage.

dilluns, 24 de maig del 2010

I found truth

"To the centre of the city where all roads meet, waiting for you.
To the depths of the ocean where all hopes sank, searching for you.
I was moving through the silence without motion, waiting for you.
In a room without window in the corner, I found truth.

In the shadowplay, acting out your own death, knowing no more.
As the assassins all grouped in four lines, dancing on the floor.
And with cold steel, odour on their bodies made a move to connect.
I could only stare in disbelief as the crowds all left.

I did everything, everything I wanted to.
I let them use you for their own ends.
To the centre of the city in the night, waiting for you."

Joy Division, Shadowplay.

diumenge, 23 de maig del 2010

The voice

"Native these words seem to me
All speech directed to me
I've heard them once before
I know that feeling.

Stranger emotions in mind
Changing the contours I find
I've seen them once before
Someone cries to me.

The look and the sound of the voice
They try, they try
The shape and the power of the voice
In strong low tones.

Forceful and twisting again
Wasting the perfect remains
I've felt it once before
Slipping over me.

The look and the sound of the voice
They try, they try
The shape and the power of the voice
In strong low tones

Sweetly the voices decay
Draw on the lines that they say
I'd lost it once before
Now it cries to me."

Ultravox, The voice.

divendres, 21 de maig del 2010

Bigamist, pederast, dope friend, and plagiarist

"A great achiever and close associate of John Paul II, Marcial Maciel was also a bigamist, pederast, dope friend, and plagiarist. Maciel came from the fervently religious state of Michoacán in the southwest of Mexico, and grew up during the years of the Cristero war (1926–1929), a savage conflict that pitched traditional Catholics (Cristeros) in provincial Mexico against the anti-clerical government in the capital. One of his uncles was the commanding general of the Cristeros. Another four uncles were bishops. One of them, Rafael Guízar y Valencia, brought him into a clandestine seminary in Mexico City, where as a 21 year old who had not even taken his vows, Maciel created a new religious order that was intended to be both cosmopolitan and strict.

In 1997, a Mexican woman who was living in Cuernavaca looked at the cover of the magazine Contenido—a Reader’s Digest-y sort of publication—and saw on it the face of her common-law husband. She had been his partner for 21 years and borne him two children, and she knew him as a private detective or “CIA agent” who, for understandable work-related reasons, put in only occasional appearances at home. Now she learned that he was a priest and and that his real name was Marcial Maciel. He was, the magazine said, the head of an order whose strictness and extreme conservatism appeared to hide some vile secrets: the article, picking up information first brought to light in an article by Jason Berry in the Hartford Courant, revealed that nine men, one a founder of the Legionaries, another still an active member, and the rest all former members of the order, had informed their superiors in Rome that Maciel had abused them sexually when they were pubescent seminarians under his care.

The accusations were not new, nor would they be the last. In 1938 Maciel was expelled from his uncle Guízar’s seminary, and shortly afterward from a seminary in the United States. According to witnesses, Maciel and his uncle had a gigantic row behind closed doors, and one witness, a Legionary who had known Maciel since childhood, told the psychoanalyst González that the bishop’s rage had to do with the fact that Maciel was locking himself up in the boarding house where he was staying with some of the younger boys at his uncle’s seminary. Bishop Guízar died of a massive heart attack the following day.

Later, it would become known that Maciel had his students and seminarians procure Dolantin (morphine) for him. This led to Maciel’s suspension as head of the order in 1956. Inexplicably, he was reinstated after two years. Much later still, someone realized that his book, The Psalter of My Days, which was more or less required reading in Legionary institutions, and was a sort of Book of Hours, or prayer guide, was lifted virtually in its entirety from The Psalter of My Hours, an account written by a Spaniard who was sentenced to life in prison after the Spanish Civil War.

As it turns out, Maciel’s common-law marriage to Blanca Estela Lara Gutiérrez was not exclusive. Some ten years after he met her, he began a long-lasting relationship with a 19-year old waitress from Acapulco, to whom he introduced himself as an “oil broker.” He had a daughter with her, and, according to a recent article in the Spanish newspaper El Mundo, several more children with other partners.

After she found out that her husband was not a CIA agent but a child-molesting priest, Blanca Estela Lara did not come forth with the news that she was married to him. Perhaps she was terrified unawares of the man she believed “was her God,” as she would say a decade later. Perhaps she was simply ashamed. At any rate, she kept silent while some of Maciel’s victims and a few journalists—notably the late Gerald Renner and Jason Berry, now of the National Catholic Reporter—kept producing more evidence. And then, last March, two years after Maciel’s death, Lara appeared with her three sons on one of Mexico’s most well-regarded talk shows and listened quietly while her children testified that their biological father, Marcial Maciel, had made them masturbate him, and had first attempted to rape them, the older one said, when he was a boy seven years old. (This testimony has been tarnished somewhat by the revelation that the sons had earlier demanded millions of dollars from the Legionaries of Christ in exchange for their silence. The order has not attempted to deny the accusation, however.)

Quite apart from the damage to Maciel’s victims, there is the pressing question of why the Catholic Church, as an institution, did not condemn him ..."

Alma Guillermoprieto, The New York Review of Books. Father Maciel, John Paul II, and the Vatican sex crisis.

dijous, 20 de maig del 2010

Unas bellísimas personas

"Stephen Hawking de agujeros negros y cosas de este tipo, pues sabe mucho, pero de aliens, no tiene ni puta idea. Porque si ves a un alien, un tipo de dos metros con forma de lagarto, amarillo y tal, acojona. Pero después son unas bellísimas personas. Las veces que me han tenido abducido, he tomado licor de hierbas con ellos, pero a saco.

¿Que pueden ser hostiles? Bueno, la sonda anal al principio duele, pero una vez lo repiten, no hay problema alguno.

Curiosamente mi primer contacto fue en el Xacobeo 93. Yo estaba en Portomarín, justo antes de cruzar a Pontes. Y de repente aparecí en la Ciudad de la Cultura [en construcción, distrito cultural y ocio de Santiago]. Todavía no estaba en construcción pero aparecí allí. Me encontraba en la biblioteca, en una mesa, jugando al dominó.

Quedamos en Bonaval todos los domingos con una bolsa grande de palomitas. Miramos al cielo y esperamos, esperamos. Porque también somos conscientes que el concepto espacio-temporal de ellos es distinto."

Correo TV.

dimecres, 19 de maig del 2010

Dark was the night, cold was the ground

"The first songs he recorded, on a single day in 1927, are more familiar. "Nobody's Fault But Mine" was covered by Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton did "Motherless Children," Bob Dylan turned Johnson's "Jesus Make Up My Dying Bed" into "In My Time of Dying" on his 1962 debut LP and "If I Had My Way I'd Tear the Building Down" has been appropriated by everyone from the Grateful Dead to the Staple Singers.

Johnson's haunting masterpiece "Dark Was the Night (Cold Was the Ground)" was chosen for an album placed aboard Voyager 1 in 1977 on its journey to the ends of the universe. Foreseeing an extraterrestrial intercept, astronomer Carl Sagan and his staff put together "Sounds of Earth" -- including ancient chants, the falling rain, a beating heart, Beethoven, Bach and Blind Willie.

Beyond five recording dates from 1927-1930 that yielded 30 tracks, the singer remains a biographical question mark. Only one picture of him, seated at a piano holding a guitar with a tin cup for tips on its neck, has ever been found.

Unquestioned is the opinion that Johnson is one of the most influential guitarists in music history. "Anybody who's ever played the bottleneck guitar with some degree of accomplishment is quoting Blind Willie to this day," said Austin slide guitarist Steve James. "He's the apogee." An instinctive virtuoso, Johnson made his guitar moan, slur and sing, often finishing lyrics for him, and throughout the years, Clapton, Jimmy Page, Ry Cooder, Duane Allman and many more have expressed a debt to the sightless visionary."

Michael Corcoran, Austin American-Statement. The soul of Willie Johnson.

dimarts, 18 de maig del 2010

No safety zone

"You will all be caught with your diapers down. That's a promise. I make you this promise on my mother's head, or right here, today, standing on the very head of my mother, which is our God Green Earth, which anybody who wasn't born in a fucking sewer ought to know and understand to the very marrow of their bones.

They will invade you in your beds, they will snap you from your hot-tubs, they will pluck you right out from your fancy sports cars. There is nowhere, absolutely nowhere in this godforsaken valley. I'm talking about from the range of my voice, right here, clear out to the goddam Mojave Desert and beyond that, clear out past Barstow and everywhere else in the valley all the way to Arizona.

None of that area will be called a Safety Zone. There will be no Safety Zone. I can guarantee you the Safety Zone will be eliminated, erradicated. You will all be extradicted to the land of no return. It's a navigation to nowhere. And if you think that's going to be fun, you got another thing coming.

I may be a slimebucket, but believe me, I know what the Hell I am talking about. I'm not crazy. And don't say I didn't warny you. I warned you. I warned all of you."

Paris, Texas. Directed by Wim Wenders. Written by Sam Shepard.

dissabte, 15 de maig del 2010

Dreihundert Männer

"Dreihundert Männer, von denen jeder jeden kennt, leiten die wirtschaftlichen Geschicke des Kontinents und suchen sich die Nachfolger aus ihrer Umgebung." (*)

Aber lassen Sie mich vertraulich Ihnen sagen: mein Ausspruch war eine Art von Indiskretion. Die wirklichen „300“ haben die Gewohnheit und Vorsicht, ihre Macht abzuleugnen. Wenn Sie sie aufrufen, so werden sie Ihnen sagen: wir wissen von nichts; wir sind Kaufleute wie alle anderen. Dagegen werden nicht 300 sondern 3000 Kommerzienräte sich melden, die Strümpfe oder Kunstbutter wirken, und sagen: wir sind es. Die Macht liegt in der Anonymität; ich kenne unter den Bekannteren – nicht unter den Bedeutendsten – Einen, den überhaupt niemand zu sehen bekommt, außer seinem Barbier. Ich kenne Einen, der fast arm ist und die gewaltigsten Unternehmungen beherrscht. Ich kenne Einen, der vielleicht der Reichste ist, und dessen Vermögen seinen Kindern gehört, die er haßt. Mehrere sind unzurechnungsfähig. Einer arbeitet für die Jesuiten, ein Anderer ist Agent der Kurie. Einer, als Beauftragter einer ausländischen Vereinigung, ist mit einem Besitz von 280 Millionen Consols der größte Gläubiger des preußischen Staates.

Alles dies vertraulich. Aber Sie sehen: diesen Menschen ist auf gewöhnlichen Wegen nicht leicht beizukommen. Und den ungewöhnlichen Weg des persönlichen Appells lehnen sie ab.“ (**)

Walther Rathenau. * Neuen Freien Presse, Dezember 1909. ** Brief an Frank Wedekind. November 1912.

(Translation into English: There are three hundred men who know each other and lead the economic fate of this continent while they search for their heirs among them... But I will confess you something: that quotation was some kind of indiscretion. The real "300" have a habit and caution to deny their power. If you call them, they will tell you that we know of nothing, "we are businessmen like many others". On the other hand, not 300 but 3000 honorauble businessmen will report, sticking together like butter, to say "we are also part of them". Their power lies in the anonymity, I know one that no one will ever meet except for his barber. I know one who is nearly poor but leads the most powerful companies. I know one who is perhaps the richest, and heard his assets to his children, whom he hates. Several are irresponsible. One works for the Jesuits, another is an agent of the Curia. One, an agent from a foreign investment fund, is a holding of 280 million bounds from the largest creditors of the Prussian states... It is not easy to get into these men...)

dijous, 13 de maig del 2010

The paradox of Tragedy

"That Othello’s jealousy acquires additional force from his preceding impatience, and that the subordinate passion is here readily transformed into the predominant one.

Difficulties increase passions of every kind; and by rousing our attention, and exciting our active powers, they produce an emotion, which nourishes the prevailing affection.

Parents commonly love that child most, whose sickly infirm frame of body had occasioned them the greatest pains, trouble, and anxiety in rearing him. The agreeable sentiment of affection here acquires force from sentiments of uneasiness.

Nothing endears so much a friend as sorrow for his death. The pleasure of his company has not so powerful an influence.

Jealousy is a painful passion; yet without some share of it, the agreeable affection of love has difficulty to subsist in its full force and violence. Absence is also a great source of complaint among lovers, and gives them the greatest uneasiness: yet nothing is more favorable to their mutual passion than short intervals of that kind. And if long intervals often prove fatal, it is only because, through time, men are accustomed to them, and they cease to give uneasiness."
David Hume, Of Tragedy.

dimarts, 11 de maig del 2010

Punks & pirates storm the elite of football

"If a Clash reunion tour were possible, this would be its audience, except that they do all the singing. Often in English, it lasts the full 90 minutes and includes nods to the Beatles, who spent their early years around the corner at the Kaiserkeller and the Star-Club. The choirmasters are four fans with megaphones, perched on the perimeter railings behind the goal in a manner that would give British safety officers heart failure.

Attending a match at the Millerntor is like stepping back 20 or 30 years into a slightly altered, improved football universe: the old Den without the menace. With beer and smoking allowed on the terraces — yes, standing remains part of Germany’s football landscape — it even smells like an old ground. In a good way.

The motto “Non-established since 1910” says everything about the club whose team wear brown and are cheered on by fans waving the skull and crossbones. Its centenary will be celebrated not with a prestige friendly against a mega-club but against FC United of Manchester.

This was anything but. For the first 40 minutes after the teams took the field to AC/DC’s Hells Bells promotion jitters were evident as St Pauli missed a penalty and a retake. But the crowd sang on as if they had scored and two goals in as many minutes just after half-time settled the nerves.

After the final whistle, celebrations spilt on to the nearby Reeperbahn, while 500 or so headed for their traditional watering hole, the Jolly Roger pub, to continue drinking and talk about the match and the plans for the rest of Friday night.

What they did not discuss was whether success will change St Pauli. How could it, when Corny Littman, the president, is a theatre and nightclub-owner and one-time performer in gay cabaret? “I’ve been president for seven years but a fan for 30, so I understand what they want,” he said. “I believe in the identity and you have to take care of it.”

“You only have to look around to feel the atmosphere, to understand the flair of St Pauli. I’m not afraid that we’ll lose it, even in the Bundesliga. I don’t really want to talk about it because we’re not there yet. If we are, we may change the atmosphere of the Bundesliga, but it won’t change us.”

Nick Szczpanik, The Times. St Pauli a world of their own making.

(Sankt Pauli will play next season in the First German football league)

divendres, 7 de maig del 2010

Historia de Cataluña

Juan Antonio Samaranch valora la figura de Franco con motivo de su muerte

-Señor presidente [de la Diputación de Barcelona]: ¿qué cree que representará para la historia de España el mandato de Franco?

-El mandato de Franco va a representar, según mi opinión, uno de los periodos más brillantes de la historia de España, sin duda alguna. Encontró un país subdesarrollado, miseria, poca cultura y deja un país con todos los problemas, desde luego los hay, pero muchos derivados del fantástico desarrollo experimentado por nuestro país en estos últimos años de paz.

-Señor Samaranch, dos últimas preguntas. La primera: ¿qué cabe decir de lo que ha sido, de lo que representa, la labor de Franco de cara a Cataluña?

-De cara a Cataluña, incluso hemos oído las emocionadas palabras del presidente del gobierno cuando transmitía el último acto del gobierno de Franco, este mensaje a todos los españoles. Y en aquellas apretadas y pocas lineas no se olvidaba de que España era la suma de una serie de regiones con sus peculiaridades, con sus culturas, con sus lenguas, pero eso sí, con el deseo de unión entre todos los españoles. Ahora hay algo que me gustaría decir en estos momentos: yo conocí al Jefe del Estado, a Francisco Franco, lo he visitado en numerosas ocasiones, pero muy especialmente cuando tuve el honor de estar al frente del deporte español. Y entonces me di cuenta de su singular inteligencia al percatarse del enorme valor social que tenía el deporte en nuestro siglo y la enorme arma que era el deporte para la educación y formación de nuestra juventud. O sea que todos los españoles lloramos la desaparición de Franco, pero yo creo que los deportistas españoles aún la tenemos que llorar más.

Juan Antonio Samaranch, 1975.

The day I was quoted by 'The Times'

"China is rehabilitating Chiang Kai-shek, the rival to Mao Zedong long portrayed as devil No. 1 in Chinese Communist Party propaganda, writes Cristian Segura in The Asia Times. That’s because Beijing now sees the pro-unity Kuomintang party of Taiwan, which Chiang once led, as an ally in the fight against Taiwanese pro-independence forces:

Against such a backdrop, Chiang’s role in history, as well as his legacy, is being re-evaluated on the mainland. His role in leading the nation against the Japanese invaders during World War II is affirmed (previously only the C.C.P. had been said to be the main force against the Japanese). In particular, Chiang is praised for his “iron fist” crackdown on any pro-independence activity in Taiwan to “safeguard national integrity”.

A recent example of this transition is the film “Jianguo Daye” (“The Founding of a Republic”), a movie sponsored by the Chinese government to commemorate the 60th birthday of the People’s Republic of China. In the movie, Chiang is depicted as an honorable man who tried his best for China and betrayed the C.C.P. because of human mistakes incited by bad advisers.

“Whether in China or Taiwan, everybody can make mistakes,” said a Taiwanese guide for a group of retired workers from a steel company in Xian, capital of Shaanxi province in northwestern China. They had finished the tour of the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall [in Taipei, capital of Taiwan] and were heading to their bus when I asked them their opinions about the generalissimo. They looked reluctant to talk to this journalist, but they nodded when a woman answered that Chiang was a good influence because he fought for the unification of China."

The New York Times, Devil nº 1 gets a makeover in China.

(Picture by the designers hub Pentagram.com)

dimecres, 5 de maig del 2010


"El capítol d'avui comença amb un home que ven entrades per a l'obra de la seva pròpia vida. L'única cosa que pretén el nostre protagonista és deixar constància que tot i que el decorat canviï, ell ha existit i ha tingut una vida. Endavant doncs amb Portbou:

La obra d'avui pretén parlar de què en definitiva el món és una aldea global, és un poble gran, o hauria de ser-ho, i les circumstàncies coincidents que donen només parlen d'aquesta idea. Sobre els actors, res a dir, sinó que alguns d'ells estan representant la història de la seva vida.

Tengo 74 años. Soy hijo de Portbou. He trabajado en una agencia de aduanas durante 45 años. Mis abuelos paternos vinieron del Perelló, Tarragona, en 1883. Tengo dos hijos. Vienen a comer cada día a mi casa porque el día 10 de este mes me quedé viudo. Mi madre falleció hace cinco meses, con 95 años, ciega y sorda."...

-On viu vostè, Jordi?

-En la subida del cementerio, así estoy más próximo.

Elsabeth Produccions, Xarxa de Televisions Locals. Portbou, capítol 6: Paper i Llapis.

dimarts, 4 de maig del 2010

The pepper scale

"The Scoville scale is a measurement of the spicy heat (See: Piquance) of a chili pepper according to its capsaicin content. Capsaicin is a chemical compound that stimulates chemoreceptor nerve endings in the skin, especially the mucous membranes. The number of Scoville heat units (SHU) indicates the amount of capsaicin present.

15,000,000–16,000,000 Pure capsaicin.

8,600,000–9,100,000 Various capsaicinoids (e.g., homocapsaicin, homodihydrocapsaicin, nordihydrocapsaicin).

5,000,000–5,300,000 Law Enforcement Grade pepper spray, FN 303 irritant ammunition.

855,000–1,075,000 Bhut Jolokia (Naga Jolokia).

350,000–580,000 Red Savina habanero.

100,000–350,000 Guntur Chilli, Habanero chili, Scotch Bonnet Pepper, Datil pepper, Rocoto, African Birdseye, Madame Jeanette, Jamaican Hot Pepper.

50,000–100,000 Bird's eye chili/Thai Pepper/Indian Pepper, Malagueta Pepper, Chiltepin Pepper, Pequin Pepper.

30,000–50,000 Cayenne Pepper, Ají pepper, Tabasco pepper, Cumari pepper (Capsicum Chinese).

10,000–23,000 Serrano Pepper.

2,500–8,000 Jalapeño Pepper, Guajillo pepper, New Mexican varieties of Anaheim pepper, Paprika (Hungarian wax pepper), Tabasco Sauce.

500–2,500 Anaheim pepper, Poblano Pepper, Rocotillo Pepper, Peppadew.

100–500 Pimento, Peperoncini."

Wikipedia, Scoville scale.

(dedicat al Carlos Rodés)

dilluns, 3 de maig del 2010

Playing chess with God

"In the early 1960s, I wrote an appreciative essay for The New Yorker about the science fiction of Arthur Clarke. Not long after I got a letter from Clarke written from Sri Lanka where he lived. He told me that he was coming to New York in a few weeks and wanted to meet me. When we met, I asked him the purpose of his visit. His answer totally astonished me. “I am working on the son of Dr. Strangelove,” is what he said. The film had just come out and the first time I saw it I was so impressed that I sat through it a second time. “Stanley,” he said referring to Kubrick, “is a remarkable man. You should meet him.”

I told Clarke that nothing would please me more. Much to my amazement, the next day Clarke called to say that I was expected that afternoon at Kubrick’s apartment on Central Park West. I had never met a movie mogul and had no idea what to expect. But as soon as Kubrick opened the door I felt an immediate kindred spirit. He looked and acted like every obsessive theoretical physicist I have ever known. His obsession at that moment was whether or not anything could go faster than the speed of light. I explained to him that according to the theory of relativity no information bearing signal could go faster. We conversed like that for about an hour when I looked at my watch and realized I had to go. “Why?” he asked, seeing no reason why a conversation that he was finding interesting should stop.

I told him I had a date with a chess hustler in Washington Square Park to play for money. Kubrick wanted the name. “Fred Duval” I said. Duval was a Haitian who claimed to be related to Francois Duvalier. I was absolutely positive that the name would mean nothing to Kubrick. His next remark nearly floored me. “Duval is a patzer,” is what he said. Unless you have been around chess players you cannot imagine what an insult this is. Moreover, Duval and I were playing just about even. What did that make me?

Kubrick explained that early in his career he too played chess for money in the park and that Duval was so weak that it was hardly worth playing him. I said that we should play some time and then left the apartment. I was quite sure that we would never play. I was wrong.

I wrote a Talk of the Town on my meeting with Kubrick, which he liked. I was thus emboldened to ask if I could write a full scale profile of him. He agreed but said that he was about to leave for London to begin production of what became 2001: A Space Odyssey. Still better, I thought: I could watch the making of the film. Our first meeting was at the Hotel Dorchester in London where he was temporarily living with his family. Kubrick brought out a chess set and beat me promptly. Then we played three more games and he beat me less promptly. But I won the fifth game!

Seizing the moment I told him that I had been hustling him and had deliberately lost the first four games. His response was that I was a patzer. All during the filming of 2001 we played chess whenever I was in London and every fifth game I did something unusual. Finally we reached the 25th game and it was agreed that this would decide the matter. Well into the game he made a move that I was sure was a loser. He even clutched his stomach to show how upset he was. But it was a trap and I was promptly clobbered. “You didn’t know I could act too,” he remarked.

The scene now shifts to the spring of 1972. I was spending the year at Oxford, and spent some Sundays with the Kubricks. Our interest again turned to chess but this time it was with the imminent match between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky in Iceland. One Sunday, Kubrick and I watched Fischer’s interview with Mike Wallace for “60 Minutes.” It was around the time of Fischer’s birthday and Wallace had come with a cake. “I don’t like that kind of cake,” Fischer said graciously. Then he told Wallace how he had learned to play chess. His older sister had taught him the moves. He soon began beating her so he spotted her pieces. Then he said that that no longer worked so he began playing with himself—Fischer vs. Fischer. “Mostly I won,” he commented with no trace of humor.

I expected a pleasant summer in Oxford reading about the match but one morning in May the phone rang in my office. The man on the line identified himself as the features editor of Playboy. He informed me that Hugh Heffner was interested in chess and had read my New Yorker profile of Kubrick. They had decided that I was the perfect person to write about the Fischer-Spassky match for Playboy. They would pay all my expenses and I would even have the American grandmaster Larry Evans at my disposal. It sounded too good to be true and, indeed, I had a problem. My writing for the New Yorker was not going down that well with my academic colleagues and writing for Playboy would be the last straw. He said not to worry I could use an assumed name. So I agreed. (I chose “Jay Amber”—“Bernstein” being the German for “Amber.”)

Much has been written about the match and I will only add a few personal recollections. Fischer got there the fourth of July, two days after the match had been scheduled to start. When the first game actually began on the eleventh, Spassky showed up on time but there was no Fischer. Finally, Fischer arrived, and quickly made it clear that he was much more concerned by a TV cameraman’s recording of the games than actually playing them. Indeed, after an incredibly bad move, he lost. Fischer then failed to appear at all for the second game, which he forfeited to go down two-zip.

That was about as good as it got for Spassky. Once Fischer actually began to play it was clear that Spassky had no chance. Fischer was in another league. There was a room at the tournament where grandmasters met to watch. They would predict Fischer’s next move and, more often than not, he would do something none of them had anticipated. A remarkable group of writers including Arthur Koestler and Harold Schonberg, who had played chess with Fischer and was the music critic of The New York Times, also turned up. We gathered in the lobby of the Hotel Loftleider to exchange stories and to catch an occasional glimpse of Fischer as he went off for midnight bowling.

When the match ended Schonberg predicted that Fischer would never play another. At the time I thought that Schonberg was surely wrong, but he wasn’t. The only match he ever did play was in 1992 when he played Spassky again, this time in Yugoslavia. Fischer won but the experts detected a decline in his game. He was succeeded as world champion first by Anatoly Karpov and then by Garry Kasparov, whose 1997 loss to the chess computer Deep Blue, had, in a sense, been predicted by Kubrick and Clarke decades earlier. In Kubrick’s 2001, before HAL 9000, the villainous computer, turns murderous, he roundly beats his human opponent, the astronaut Frank Poole, in a chess match.

For his part, Fischer spent the rest of his life a fugitive from both American and Japanese law. In 2005 he returned to Iceland, where he sought asylum. He was granted Icelandic citizenship and died in Reykjavik on January 17, 2008."

Jeremy Bernstein, The New York Review of Books. Playing chess with Kubrick.

diumenge, 2 de maig del 2010

El paradís del poble

La Xina obre avui a Xangai les portes de l’exposició universal “més colossal”, adjectiu usat pels mitjans oficials del Partit Comunista Xinès (PCX). No podia ser d’altra manera, tractant-se del país més gran i amb el creixement més accelerat del món. Prop de 240 països i organitzacions són presents en un districte d’exhibicions que ocupa més 5 quilòmetres quadrats. La inversió total que haurà rebut l’exposició i la modernització de la ciutat supera els 40.000 milions d’euros. L’objectiu de l’exposició és proposar idees per millorar la relació entre el ser humà i el medi ambient. Per als Estats convidats, igual d’important és segellar noves oportunitats comercials amb la Xina.

L’esdeveniment es va inaugurar ahir amb una gala reservada per a les personalitats polítiques internacionals, entre elles el president de la Comissió Europea, Jose Manuel Durao Barroso, i el president francès, Nicolas Sarkozy. Els ciutadans sí es van poder aplegar al passeig fluvial del Bund per contemplar l’espectacle pirotècnic adjunt. La cerimònia va ser esperpèntica i d’un mal gust difícilment igualable: balls folklòrics amb un pop ensucrat de fons i projeccions de vídeo tòpiques sobre els països convidats. Fins i tot la mascota de l’exposició, haibao, va aparèixer disfressada de torero, mariachi o d’alemany bevedor de cervesa.

Els organitzadors estimen que l’exposició rebrà entre 70 i 100 milions de visites fins a la seva cloenda, el proper octubre. La vasta majoria d’espectadors seran xinesos que passaran per Xangai en viatges organitzats per les seves empreses, escoles o clubs de jubilats. El PCX s’ha esmerat en promoure la cita a Xangai de la mateixa manera que ho va fer fa dos anys amb els Jocs Olímpics de Pequín: com un esdeveniment gegantí de propaganda per legitimar la seva gestió davant la societat xinesa. El govern xinès també argumenta que l’Exposició és una nova demostració que el país ha assumit el paper de líder global que li pertoca.

Per part dels països i les organitzacions convidades, la mostra de Xangai s’ha convertit en la millor ocasió per fer la cort al nou rei de l’economia global. S’han destinat ingents partides dels pressupostos públics en envair la ciutat amb activitats culturals, econòmiques i acadèmiques i en convertir els pavellons nacionals en joies de l’arquitectura. La gran majoria d’aquestes obres hauran de ser desinstal•lades un cop acabada la fira.

Espanya ha invertit 55 milions d’euros en la seva participació a l’exposició, 18 milions dels quals han estat utilitzats per instal•lar un pavelló recobert de plafons de vímet i dissenyat pel despatx d’arquitectes barceloní Miralles-Tagliabue. Per pressupost i notorietat, el pavelló espanyol està al capdavant de la UE junt amb Alemanya i França –que només en la construcció de les seves instal•lacions haurien invertit 30 milions i 40 milions d’euros, respectivament. La UE, que també participa amb recinte propi, té en marxa a Xangai una campanya de publicitat per donar-se a conèixer entre els xinesos com a soci econòmic i com a destí turístic. Els EUA hi són presents amb un pavelló que ha costat 46 milions d’euros, finançats per empreses privades. Amb una despesa de 110 milions d’euros, el pavelló més car és el d’Aràbia Saudita.

L’organització de l’exposició ha declarat un pressupost de 75 milions de dòlars per finançar la presència de 100 països en vies de desenvolupament, sobretot països africans. La Xina manté una intensa acció d’ajuda al desenvolupament d’Àfrica a canvi de recursos naturals. Amunt i avall per Xangai es poden trobar aquests dies un sorprenent elevat nombre de delegacions africanes de polítics, empresaris i periodistes. També gràcies al suport xinès, Corea del Nord participarà per primer cop en una exposició universal.

Xangai s’ha modernitzat i guarnit per a l’ocasió amb un pressupost major fins i tot que el rebut per Pequín per als Jocs. Tot i això, a diferència del 2008 la presència policia és inferior i la vida nocturna i l’activitat dels venedors ambulants de productes copiats continuen amb pràctica normalitat.

Prop de 300.000 persones van aprofitar ahir el primer de maig, dia festiu a la Xina, per envair l’exposició universal de Xangai. Les exorbitants xifres econòmiques invertides pel país organitzar, 190 estats i 50 institucions públiques i privades faran les delícies de la població xinesa, àvida per descobrir noves fronteres, però també satisfaran amb escreix els amants de l’arquitectura i a tots aquells que vulguin veure el futur mediambiental del planeta de color de rosa.

El lema de l’exposició és proposar idees revolucionàries per fer de les ciutats un espai sostenible ecològicament. Tot i això, en la majoria de casos, l’objectiu s’ha substituït per una promoció turística o empresarial. Els espectadors no semblaven tenir gaire en compte aquest canvi de concepte, tot al contrari, expressaven la mateixa il•lusió que un nen que el porten per primer cop a un parc d’atraccions; això si eren capaços de resistir esperes interminables per accedir als grans pavellons, en especial als dels participants d’Àsia i Europa. Al pavelló del Japó –una nau gegantina amb forma de monstre de dibuixos manga coberta d’una membrana de plaques fotovoltaiques-, unes pantalles anunciaven que les cues per accedir-hi superaven els 150 minuts. Una opció de l’organització era adquirir números de reserva de la visita però en casos extrems, com en el del pavelló xinès, la demanda era tan gran que per la tarda ja s’havia suspès el sistema de reserva anticipada.

La majoria de visitants accedien a la mostra en grups organitzats que seguien l’itinerari dels pavellons nacionals més grans. L’àrea destinada a exemples concrets de ciutats amb projectes sostenibles i on s’ubica l’espai de Barcelona, quedaven més aïllats i amb menys presència de públic. La part dels participants metropolitans és la més interessant des del punt de vista de contingut. En el cas de l’ajuntament de Barcelona, aquest se centra en divulgar la transformació urbanística de Ciutat Vella i el Poble Nou. Madrid té un pavelló propi amb quatre sales, tres de les quals detallen la seva evolució ecològica i en infraestructures i una final dedicada al Reial Madrid.

A les àrees d’Àsia i Europa, la presència de les masses era angoixant. El públic feia cua fins i tot per visitar exhibicions que desconeixia. A la zona d’espera per accedir al palau morisc que ha aixecat el Marroc, una família de Xangai admetia a l’AVUI no saber de quin país es tractava. A l’interior, majestuós, no havia cap plànol perquè el visitant s’ubiqués de la situació geogràfica del Marroc però sí es reproduïa amb detall un basar amb venedors de productes tradicionals. El petit pavelló d’Afganistan, finançat per la Xina, estava destinat a vendre productes típics, des de catifes a bijuteria. Pakistan està representat per una reproducció a escala real de la fortalesa de Lahore (segle XVI d.C) finançada per l’Institut de Xangai d’Enginyeria Nuclear, un dels responsables de la construcció de tres centrals atòmiques al Pakistan.

Un altre cas de la generositat xinesa és el pavelló de Corea del Nord, que presenta Pyongyang com a model de ciutat sostenible. El govern nord-coreà assegura que la seva capital és “d’un paradís per a les persones” i ho demostra amb vídeos dels anys Setanta on apareixen ciutadans gaudint de parcs, camps de golf i carrers sense cotxes. El detall morbós que s’han permès els organitzadors és ubicar el pavelló d’Iran al costat de Corea del Nord.

Els pavellons europeus són l’excel•lència pel que fa al disseny. El pavelló espanyol, del despatx barceloní Miralles-Tagliabue, és un dels més impactants pel laberint de vimer que el recobreix. A l’interior es presenten dos muntatges de vídeo de gran qualitat escènica, un del director català Bigas Luna, on mostra les imatges més tòpiques d’Espanya –com els San Fermines, el flamenco i el futbol- i un altre de l’autor Basilio Martín Patino dedicat al progrés social d’Espanya. Algun membre del públic admetia que li costava entendre el context d’aquesta informació i recomanava que s’hi afegissin subtítols. L’estrella del pavelló era Miguelín, un nadó mecànic de 6,5 metres d’altura dissenyat per la catalana Isabel Coixet que fins i tot rebia ovacions.


Les peripècies de la Fura dels Baus a Xangai

“Nosaltres no representem ni a Catalunya ni a Espanya: representem a Xina!”. L’autor teatral Àlex Ollé destacava ahir satisfet que les autoritats xineses seleccionessin la Fura dels Baus com una de les principals atraccions artístiques de l’exposició universal. Una productora taiwanesa els va contractar fa mig any per participar a l’exposició. “Ho vàrem acceptar per la meitat dels diners que demanàvem. Creiem que és una bona oportunitat per accedir al mercat asiàtic”, valorava Ollé. La Fura dels Baus representarà durant els sis mesos de la fira, tres cops per dia, el musical “Window of the City”, on es fa un recorregut per cinc metròpolis: Londres, París, Nova York, Osaka i Barcelona. La història reprodueix el viatge d’un àngel que coneix una nena de Xangai que li mostra com és la vida a les ciutats. “Se’ns va encarregar un projecte per a tots els públics. La Fura no es limita a cap gènere. No sé si la gent entén la història però el resultat agrada perquè és molt potent visualment”, explica Ollé.
Cinc membres de la companyia són a Xangai per coordinar el treball dels 60 artistes que participen a l’obra. Els representants de la Fura destaquen la satisfacció per la velocitat i la qualitat dels preparatius per part dels organitzadors, en especial pel que fa a l’apartat tècnic. Per a l’espectacle s’ha construït un pavelló especial. L’escenari consta d’una pista que rota 360 graus i que suporta cinc columnes de pantalles LED de 9 metres d’altura. Mentre aquests pilars reprodueixen imatges van girant, desplaçant-se amunt i avall o dividint l’escenari en dos. Ollé assegura que és l’espectacle més massiu que la Fura ha creat des de la inauguració dels Jocs Olímpics de Barcelona i calcula que l’audiència potencial fins a l’octubre pot arribar als 1,8 milions d’espectadors."

Cristian Segura, cobertura de la inauguració de l'Exposició Universal de Xangai. Versió adaptada del Diari Avui, dies 1 i 2 de maig.