dimecres, 31 d’agost del 2011

Without a clue

I worked freelance at The Aspen Times as a nightlife correspondent: seven hundred words for fifty bucks, an article a month. Then I thought, Hey dummy, you published with The Aspen Times, you should go to New York and write for their Times! It didn’t work out. I lived with my parents on Long Island and delivered Chinese food. To avoid the embarrassment of being seen doing this, I took a gig at a restaurant two towns over. My first day, a girl opens her door to me, and it’s someone I went to summer camp with. “Darin,” she says, somehow unsurprised to find me on her doorstep. “Good timing. Come in, I just ordered Chinese food.” I told her I knew, I knew.

I finally got a job at a financial technology newsletter, where I wrote stories with openings like: “Morgan Stanley is reported to be buying the Telerate trading platform to replace its Thomson real-time, turning from Unix to tcb/ip servers, with four hundred real-time end users.” I never bothered to learn what any of that meant; I wanted to keep my mind free for fiction. I was going to write, write, write. I thought I’d be fired instantly. When my boss said, “Telerate’s TIB is in trouble with its real-time market data platform—find out if data delivery is ... ,” I didn’t know whom to call, what to ask, even what I was supposed to do if I found out. Some kind woman gave me a list of questions to ask, and some numbers to call. Three years I worked there, interviewing people without a clue what I was asking.

Darin Strauss, The Paris Review. Delivering Chinese.

dimarts, 30 d’agost del 2011

The moral hierarchy

Ostap Karmondi: A popular modern Russian writer, Viktor Pelevin, has said that the main character of much of modern cinema and pop-literature—all of pop-culture—is a black briefcase full of money. We mostly follow its fate, and the fates of the other characters depend on it.

David Foster Wallace: [...] One consequence of what American scholars call a post-modern era is that everyone has seen so many performances, that American viewers and American readers, we simply assume now that everything is a performance and it’s strategic and it’s tactical. It’s a very sad situation and I think the chances are that nations go through periods of great idealism and great cynicism, and that America and Europe, at least Western Europe right now, are in periods of great cynicism.

DFW: For someone like me who grew up in the sixties at the height of the Cold War and whose consciousness was formed by, “we are the good guy and there’s one great looming dark enemy and that’s the Soviet Union,” the idea of waking up to the fact that in today’s world very possibly we are the villain, we are the dark force, to begin to see ourselves a little bit through the eyes of people in other countries—you can imagine how difficult that is for Americans to do.

OK: Let’s talk about good times and bad times. It’s a common belief that we have some moral progress, some social progress, some political progress. But looking at the twentieth century it seems that it was the cruelest century of them all. It’s unbelievable what people did to other people and what we still do to animals. We’ve actually built concentration camps for cows and chickens who live only to be killed and it structures their entire lives. Do you believe in social or moral progress? Or maybe you disagree with what I’ve just said and you don’t think that the picture is so dark?

DFW: It is certainly true that as technology has progressed and economic mechanisms have progressed, it is increasingly possible to perpetrate terrible, terrible cruelties on other human beings and on animals. You and I, I think, agree that one of the great unspoken horrors of modern capitalism is the phenomenon of what’s known as “factory farming.” Here in America, because it’s cheapest, animals are raised in such large numbers, in such close captivity, in such miserable conditions that if you assume that they have nervous system and are capable of suffering, it is the great horror of America right now. It’s not a view that most Americans are very interested in—most Americans believe that there’s a moral hierarchy and the needs of people come first.

Ostap Karmodi, The New York Review of Books. An interview with David Foster Wallace.

divendres, 26 d’agost del 2011

A psycopath walks into a room

Robert Hare, the eminent Canadian psychologist who invented the psychopath checklist, ... recently announced that you're four times more likely to find a psychopath at the top of the corporate ladder than you are walking around in the janitor's office...

Picture a psychopath and you might think of Norman Bates. But Ronson says successful businessmen can also score high on the checklist. While researching his book, Ronson visited the Florida home of Al Dunlap — known as "Chainsaw Al" — who as CEO of appliance maker Sunbeam was notorious for his gleeful fondness for firing people and shutting down factories.

"So I turned up at his house, and it was full of sculptures of predatory animals," Ronson says. "And he immediately started to talk about how he believed in the predatory spirit, which was word for word what Bob Hare writes about in the checklist: Look out for their belief in the predatory spirit."

NPR. A psycopath walks into a room. Can you tell?

dimecres, 24 d’agost del 2011

Wohl kaum überlebt

Einen Schritt weiter geht der britische Paläontologe Simon Conway Morris von der University of Cambridge. Wenn Aliens existierten, so würden sie nicht nur ähnlich aussehen wie wir, sondern vermutlich auch ähnlich denken, argumentiert er unter Verweis auf die starke Konvergenz der Evolution. Für Morris spricht das allerdings nicht für, sondern gegen die Existenz solcher Wesen. Anderenfalls müsse man davon ausgehen, dass zumindest einige dieser Zivilisationen die Fähigkeit entwickelt hätten, unserer Erde einen Besuch abzustatten. Das hätte die Menschheit wohl kaum überlebt. Morris wirft deshalb die Frage auf, was schlimmer sei: die Vorstellung, allein im Universum zu sein, oder jene, uns selbst zu begegnen.

Christian Speicher, Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Die Anderen und wir.

dilluns, 22 d’agost del 2011

A human cannonball

There was an Air Force pilot named Mike Collins, a nephew of former Army Chief of Staff J. Lawton Collins. Mike Collins had undergone eleven weeks of combat training at Nellis Air Force Base, near Las Vegas, and in that eleven weeks twenty-two of his fellow trainees had died in accidents, which was an extraordinary rate of two per week. Then there was a test pilot, Bill Bridgeman. In 1952, when Bridgeman was flying at Edwards Air Force Base, sixty-two Air Force pilots died in the course of thirty-six weeks of training, an extraordinary rate of 1. 7 per week. Those figures were for fighter-pilot trainees only; they did not include the test pilots, Bridgeman's own confreres, who were dying quite regularly enough.
Extraordinary, to be sure; except that every veteran of flying small high-performance jets seemed to have experienced these bad strings.

In time, the Navy would compile statistics showing that for a career Navy pilot, i. e. , one who intended to keep flying for twenty years as Conrad did, there was a 23 percent probability that he would die in an aircraft accident. This did not even include combat deaths, since the military did not classify death in combat as accidental. Furthermore, there was a better than even chance, a 56 percent probability, to be exact, that at some point a career Navy pilot would have to eject from his aircraft and attempt to come down by parachute. In the era of jet fighters, ejection meant being exploded out of the cockpit by a nitroglycerine charge, like a human cannonball. The ejection itself was so hazardous—men lost knees, arms, and their lives on the rim of the cockpit or had the skin torn off their faces when they hit the "wall" of air outside—that many pilots chose to wrestle their aircraft to the ground rather than try it… and died that way instead.

Tom Wolfe, The right stuff.

dimarts, 16 d’agost del 2011

Qüestió de vísceres

P. A.: Vaig traduir novel·les de l'àrab al català i molts amics em van felicitar. Però encara faltava la part més emocional: el català i el castellà no m'arribaven a les vísceres. La meva filla, al parvulari, cantava i li llegien contes en català i jo, abans d'anar a dormir, també ho feia. I quina emoció més gran pot haver-hi que aquesta? Ja va estar: el català ja m'arribava a les vísceres.

A. M.:Una obvietat: em meravella que una llengua sigui l'expressió directa del caràcter d'un poble.

P. A: Hi ha d'haver una simbiosi entre el que respires, la calor i la fred que sents, el que menges, el que vesteixes i el que parles. És normal que la llengua respongui a la vida quotidiana dels individus. La llengua és un vehicle de transmissió de missatges. Aquests missatges neixen del pensament, l'emocio o la necessitat del mateix home. I aquestes necessitats, d'on surten? De la terra que trepitja, de l'entorn on viu.

La llengua mai no pot ser una eina de reivindicació política, que és el que jo retrec al català. Res ha fet tan mal al català. Qui porta a terme les reivindicacions polítiques? Els polítics. La prioritat d'un polític és el seu propi poder. Per tant, la llengua mai serà una prioritat, serà un instrument. Ho vaig dir a una xerrada a Òmnium: estimeu la vostra llengua, la vostra cultura, la vostra tradició, la vostra identitat. Però qui estima una cosa, no la posa en mans d'un altre: se la queda i la defensa ell mateix.

Adam Martín, Diari ARA. Entrevista a Pius Alibek.

dimarts, 9 d’agost del 2011

England armed to the teeth

What it was, really, was that they just looked totally mad. 50 of them at a time would be hanging out on their estates dressed in state of the art all-weather wear; in brands like North Face and Lowe Alpine, always in black. All of them are aged between 14 and 17, and while I was with them I saw them armed with SA80s – you know the British army assault rifles – and bipod mounted machine guns like from Rambo. And they had IEDs.


Me or you growing up, we’d chat up a girl in a club, or you’d take her to the movies. These lads aren’t interested in that. They come from crime families, some of their parents are smackheads, so they just want to take and they’re aggressive about it. They’ve got no idea how to chat up a girl, so they’ll just pay for a prostitute – which they’re all into at 15, 16 – or “smash” these poor girls.
Another change has been within the police. They’ve got militarised anti-gang units. The Matrix in Liverpool, Excalibur in Manchester, Territorial Support Groups in London. They’re all ex-squaddies from Iraq and Afghanistan, armed to the teeth.

I’ve heard it blamed on video games, rap music, rock music, schools, absent dads, benefits, TVs. But the main reason is the extreme form of capitalism in this country. In all the places this is happening – parts of London, Liverpool, Manchester – a ‘black’ criminal economy has grown in tandem with the ‘white’ legal economy. What we’re seeing is the product of 30 years of black economy evolution. Liverpool has one of the biggest drug-dealing cartels in Europe now, if not the world.

Kev Kharas, Vice UK. Interview with Graham Johnson.

dijous, 4 d’agost del 2011

If you wanna happy

If you wanna be happy
For the rest of your life,
Never make a pretty woman your wife,
So from my personal point of view,
Get an ugly girl to marry you.

A pretty woman makes her husband look small
And very often causes his downfall.
As soon as he marries her
Then she starts to do
The things that will break his heart.
But if you make an ugly woman your wife,
You'll be happy for the rest of your life,
An ugly woman cooks her meals on time,
She'll always give you peace of mind.

If you wanna be happy
For the rest of your life,
Never make a pretty woman your wife,
So from my personal point of view,
Get an ugly girl to marry you.

Don't let your friends say
You have no taste,
Go ahead and marry anyway,
Though her face is ugly,
Her eyes don't match,
Take it from me she's a better catch.

If you wanna be happy
For the rest of your life,
Never make a pretty woman your wife,
So from my personal point of view,
Get an ugly girl to marry you.

Say man.
Hey baby.
Saw your wife the other day.
Yeah, she's ugly.
Yeah, she's ugly but she sure can cook.
Yeah?. Okay.

If you wanna be happy
For the rest of your life,
Never make a pretty woman your wife,
So from my personal point of view,
Get an ugly girl to marry you.

If you wanna be happy
For the rest of your life,
Never make a pretty woman your wife,
So from my personal point of view,
Get an ugly girl to marry you.

Skatalites, if you wanna be happy for the rest of your life.

dimarts, 2 d’agost del 2011

¡Pechos fuera!

[...] la vanitat l'ha convertit en una senyora enjoiada de mitges de reixeta i escot perfumat. La progre que dormia a terra a Canet és ara una Pilar que, com la Urbano, s'apunta voluntària a fer biografies de reis i sants.

Des de Mary Santpere cap pubilla catalana havia fet bolos per les Espanyes trepitjant tan fort. Als platós dels canals privats, blinda raons de pes amb xuleria mesetària i és més indestructible que el Robocop. Arribes a patir pel fatxa decrèpit que no calla. No sap, l'infeliç, que la nostra poderosa Afrodita el podria fulminar amb un " ¡Pechos fuera! "

Apuntava a Pasionaria i ha acabat en barreja de Belén Esteban i Oriana Fallaci.

Albert Pla Nualart, Diari ARA. Poderosa Afrodita (retrat de Pilar Rahola)