sexta-feira, 29 de janeiro de 2010

US veteran returns art album taken from Hitler's villa


US veteran returns art album taken from Hitler's villa

In 1945, in the heat of war, a young John Pistone helped himself to a book. Now he is giving it back.

To be fair, Mr Pistone, a private in George Patton's army, never thought of his act as theft. He just needed proof he was there.

"I thought who the hell's going to believe I was in Berchtesgaden?" he said. "I'm going to need some proof."

US soldiers quickly stripped Hitler's retreat at Berchtesgaden of souvenirs
As the Americans raced across southern Germany in the spring of 1945, Mr Pistone recalled, the soldiers were intent on capturing as many German soldiers as possible. And finding Hitler.

"They were giving up like mad by that time, but we were looking for Hitler. Because they said he was still alive," he said.

And so the young John Pistone found himself walking through the gates of the Berghof, Hitler's mountain retreat near Berchtesgaden, in the Bavarian Alps.

"We had a feeling like we just missed Hitler," Mr Pistone remembered. "It seemed like... someone had just left in a hurry."

The place had already been stripped bare by other American souvenir hunters, but in a cabinet Mr Pistone found a large photo album, full of immaculate black and white reproductions of paintings.

The 'Hitler Book'

He had no idea what it was, but he thought it looked interesting and would do nicely as a memento. For the next few months, until he made it back home to Ohio, he lugged the volume around.

"That damn thing was heavy! But I was determined to get it home," he remembered.

GIs enjoy the view on a spring morning at Berchtesgaden in 1945
For decades, the album sat on John Pistone's shelf, brought out only to show family and friends. His children called it "the Hitler book".

But it was not until Mr Pistone decided to install a washer and drier in an upstairs bedroom that the book came to the attention of a local history buff who, in turn, contacted Robert Edsel, author and president of the Monuments Men Foundation.

The Monuments Men were a group of some 345 men and women from 13 countries who scoured Europe during and after WWII, looking for artistic and cultural items stolen by the Nazis.

When he heard about the album, Mr Edsel figured he knew what it was, but he flew from Texas to Cleveland to make sure.

"When I first saw it, there was little doubt in my mind about it being authentic," Mr Edsel said. "But the question was, as always, where did it come from?"

Examination confirmed Mr Edsel's initial hunch that the book was one of 31 albums that formed a catalogue featuring art selected by Hitler for inclusion in a huge National Socialist museum of art, planned for the Austrian city of Linz.

The museum, had it ever been built, would have included looted masterworks from across the continent, but Mr Pistone's album, Number 13, mostly consists of reproductions of little-known German and Austrian 19th Century paintings.

Decision time

A triptych by Hans Makart, The Plague in Florence, was a gift from Hitler's Italian ally, Benito Mussolini.

When Hitler's initial efforts to acquire the work from an Italian banking family in Florence were rebuffed, Mussolini confiscated their entire villa and gave the paintings to Hitler, who apparently reciprocated by sending the Duce a bust of himself.

Mr Pistone gave the book to Germany's ambassador, at the State Department
Another work - Frederick the Great Travelling, by Adolf Menzel - was one of Hitler's favourites and used to hang above his desk.

John Pistone was reluctant to part with the "Hitler Book", having held on to it for so long, even though Makart and Menzel meant nothing to him.

But when he read Mr Edsel's book about the Monuments Men, he decided that the time had finally come to part with the souvenir from Germany.

"I talked to my wife and I said 'I think we're going to put the book in his hands,'" Mr Pistone said.

"I feel very, very good about it, now that I know that it's important to people other than myself and my family."

At a ceremony at the State Department in Washington last week, Mr Pistone handed the album over to the German ambassador.

After a brief appearance at the National World War Museum in New Orleans, the album will be sent to Berlin, to join 19 of the original 31 volumes. The hunt goes on for the remaining 11.

And for John Pistone, there's a feeling that he has done the right thing.

"Life has been so good to me," he said. "I've been married 60 years. Five children. Ten grandchildren... And when you leave this world, it's not how much money you leave. It's setting an example. I hope this sets an example. For my children."


quinta-feira, 28 de janeiro de 2010

Apple introduces the iPad

By: Adam Balkin

Steve Jobs took the stage, putting the rumor mill to rest and unveiling Apple's "latest creation." It's called the iPad and it's the newest wireless device from the maker of the popular iPhone and iPod. Our Adam Balkin has more.

UNITED STATES -- "Is there room for something in the middle? Something between a laptop and a Smartphone? We think there is. Today we'd like to introduce you to the iPad," said Apple CEO Steve Jobs.

And with that, Jobs made official the worst kept secret in the tech world over the last several months, the much anticipated Apple tablet computer we now know is called the iPad. Starting at $500 it's half an inch thick, a pound and a half in weight and about the size of a legal pad. It essentially looks and acts like a giant iPod Touch. In fact, it can run almost all Touch and iPhone apps right out of the box, can get online via a WiFi wireless internet hotspot and some will have 3G data access via AT&T. And taking a direct swipe at Amazon's Kindle, it has access to a new iBooks store which will try to do for books what iTunes does for music and movies.

"It has to be better at browsing the web, doing email, sharing pictures, watching videos, enjoying music, playing games and reading books," Jobs said.

But, and you can probably blame this on the huge build up or unrealistic expectations, some in the tech world are already saying this is not the big wow product they were necessarily hoping for that would fill that space PC makers have been trying to fill for years, that space right in between Smartphones and laptop computers.

"It's basically just a big iPod Touch. There's basically nothing that differentiates it from an iPod Touch other than its size. It basically met everyone's expectations, maybe a little bit less, without bringing anything super new or exciting, so I think people are a little disappointed," said Adam Frucci of

As for some other key specs people were eager to hear about, Apple says the iPad will have a ten-hour battery life, comes with between 16 to 64 GB of storage, depending on the model. Again, they'll start at about $500 and run as high as just over $800. As for the final need to know piece of info, when it'll be available, about two months from now.

For more information, visit


quarta-feira, 27 de janeiro de 2010

Want to Convince? Use Abstract Rather Than Concrete Language

When consumers talk to each other about products, they generally respond more favorably to abstract language than concrete descriptions, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research. "In a series of experiments, we explored when and why consumers use abstract language in word-of-mouth messages, and how these differences in language use affect the receiver," write authors Gaby A. C. Schellekens, Peeter W. J. Verlegh, and Ale Smidts (Erasmus University, The Netherlands).

In the course of their studies, the authors found that consumers who described a positive experience with a product (like a smooth shave with a new razor) used more abstract language when they had a positive opinion about the brand before they tried the product. "When consumers were told that the product was a brand they did not like, they used more concrete language to describe a positive experience. Thus, consumers use different ways of describing the exact same experience, depending on whether they use a liked or disliked brand," the authors write.

For a disliked brand, favorable experiences are seen as exceptions, and concrete language helps consumers to frame the experience as a one-time event, the authors explain.

On the receiver end, the studies showed that consumers responded differently to abstract and concrete language. "In our study of receivers, we gave consumers a description of a positive product experience, and asked them to estimate the sender's opinion about the products," the authors write. "We found that perceived opinion of the sender was more positive when the description was cast in more abstract terms." For descriptions of negative experiences, the perceived opinion of the sender was more negative when the description used abstract language.

"Our finding that abstract messages have a stronger impact on buying intentions can be translated straightforwardly into the recommendation to use abstract language if you try to convince someone of the (positive or negative) consequences of buying a product, or of following your advice," the authors conclude.

Story Source: Adapted from materials provided by University of Chicago Press Journals, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.

Journal Reference:
1.Gaby A. C. Schellekens, Peeter W. J. Verlegh, and Ale Smidts. Language Abstraction in Word of Mouth. Journal of Consumer Research, August 2010

terça-feira, 26 de janeiro de 2010

Business Angel

Interview: Daniela Barone Soares

She gives away lots of - other people's - money to charities, but they have to meet tough business targets and prove they can rise to the challenge.
By Patrick Butler Daniela Barone Soares had spent a decade working as a private equity banker when she began to reassess her career goals. Her initial plan had been to amass a fortune and give it all away to charity. But life, she realised, was too short. "It came to a moment where I was thinking 'enough is enough', and that I wanted to do something now." She took a huge pay cut to join the charity sector - "When I went to Save the Children, what I earned in salary was less than I paid in tax in my last year at Boston Capital" - but now, she says, she's living her values.

In April, Barone Soares found herself on an Independent on Sunday "Happy List" for the way her work in philanthropy helps to make the UK a "better and happier place to live". "I don't know if happier is the right word," she says, cautiously. But Barone Soares is not a philanthropist in the traditional sense. She certainly gives away (other people's) money to good causes, but she does it in a way that owes more to the hard-headed principles of business investment than the more paternalistic values of conventional grant-making.

Barone Soares is chief executive of Impetus, set up in 2003 by the venture capitalist Stephen Dawson. It is still relatively small - it marshals resources in cash and kind of £10m, with plans to increase this to £30m by 2012; it has just six full-time and three pro-bono employees; and it is partners with a highly select band of 11 charities. But already its presence is being felt. Two of the five charities chosen from 90 applicants in March by the Department for Children, Schools and Families to share in £27m of funding for disadvantaged children were Impetus partners - the disability advocacy Speaking Up, and the conflict resolution youth organisation Leap.

Impetus works as a kind of charitable private equity fund: it raises cash from individual and corporate donors, and uses this to lever in co-investment from charitable foundations and pro-bono expertise from business institutions. This resource is invested in a small portfolio of partner charities and social enterprises. The object is not to make a profit but to ensure donor money is spent in a way that maximises "social return", by injecting capital and management knowhow into often underperforming organisations it believes has the potential to be high performers.

Any charity working in the broad field of human welfare can apply, but only a handful make the cut. For every 30 charities that Impetus holds exploratory meetings with, just one ends up as a partner. Potential partners are subject to a full market analysis. Who are their competitors? How do they compare with their peers? Costs are analysed, beneficiaries are interviewed, and the quality of senior management and trustees is assessed. "It has to be a charity that is ambitious for a much greater social impact," Barone Soares says.

But surely all charities seek greater social impact? Barone Soares is unconvinced. There's an element of "risk aversion" in the sector, she says. "Sometimes, when they come to us with what they call an ambitious plan, it is not really ambitious at all. It's like: 'We've been growing 2% a year, we want to grow 3% a year.' Well, that is not that ambitious. We say: 'What you could do is this.' And they say: 'Woah, too ambitious. We don't want to go there.'"

Anyone seeing the trust as an easy source of short-term project funding is quickly disabused. Under the terms of the deal, unrestricted money is on offer, but to get it charities have to meet tough development targets over three to four years, and that will normally entail disruption, critical self-examination, and uncomfortable decisions. Not all senior staff or trustees, for example, are likely to be considered to be up to the task ahead. "We say to charities: 'This is not [the kind of charitable] funding where we ask you for a little progress report in a year from now," Barone Soares says. "We are going to be walking that journey with you and helping you achieve more than you would achieve on your own.'"

Some in the voluntary sector will bridle at a model in which the funder takes such a hands-on approach. Barone Soares is unapologetic. "Even though charities may have a good business model to tackle the root causes of social problems, they probably don't have the management and business skills to take it to the next level and make that impact much greater." The point of the partnership, she says, is not to change what the charity does, but how it does it. "That's not what we do. We buy into their plan. We challenge it, of course, but we buy into what they are doing and we help them focus on what is their core, because usually they are not focused."

Dependence on grants

The results so far appear to speak for themselves. Speaking Up has been transformed in four years from a small Cambridge-based charity running a single project into a £2.5m provider overseeing 27 projects. Average annual income growth has been 53%. It has increased its earned income and reduced its dependence on grants. There's been a sixfold increase in [people] using the charity's services, and the number of people helped in one-to-one advocacy work has grown 30-fold.

Organisational growth alone is not the point, Barone Soares says, and measuring a charity's performance is never solely a numbers game. A successful charity, she insists, is one that can demonstrate it makes a real difference to beneficiaries' lives. "As [the charities] grow, the thing we pay attention to is: are they becoming lighter touch, touching more people but in less depth? Or are they managing to keep the depth of impact while they grow?"

There have been no failures so far, but Barone Soares accepts that at some point one of its investments will begin to struggle. It may be, she says, that the charity has been hit by tough, unforeseen market conditions, and simply needs more cash - which they would supply. Or "it might be they are underperforming and we say, 'My goodness, they haven't done what they said they were going to do', and we suspend payment until they do it. And we have done that. That really focuses people. But we haven't hit a situation where we felt [we needed to make] an early exit. That would have to be a quite drastic situation.

"We don't have unlimited resources, which means if we are putting resources into a charity which is not impactful it means we are not allocating them to someone who might. If I'm brutal about it, some charities do deserve to go under because they are just incompetent, and they don't use resources efficiently and are not necessarily adding a lot of value."

The ultimate aim, she says, is to effect a kind of rationalisation in some sub-sectors of Britain's vast charity market to ensure the best-performing charities survive and prosper. That will be uncomfortable for many in the charity world. But Barone Soares's focus is on the beneficiary. "I don't believe all the number of charities that exist are all efficient and deserve to be there."

Curriculum Vitae
Age 37.

Born Belo Horizonte, Brazil.

Lives London.

Status Single.

Education Unicamp, Brazil, economics degree; Harvard Business School, MBA.

Career 2006-present: CEO, Impetus; 2004-06: head of institutional support, Save the Children; 2003: independent environmental consulting; 1997-2002: Bancboston Capital (private equity); 1995-97: Harvard; 1996: Goldman Sachs, New York, investment banking; 1992-95: Citibank, Brazil, commercial banking.

Interests Raja yoga meditation; poetry (published one book); scuba diving.


sexta-feira, 22 de janeiro de 2010

No Pain, No Gain!

Mastering A Skill Makes Us Stressed In The Moment, Happy Long Term

No pain, no gain applies to happiness, too, according to new research published online in the Journal of Happiness Studies. People who work hard at improving a skill or ability, such as mastering a math problem or learning to drive, may experience stress in the moment, but experience greater happiness on a daily basis and longer term, the study suggests.

"No pain, no gain is the rule when it comes to gaining happiness from increasing our competence at something," said Ryan Howell, assistant professor of psychology at San Francisco State University. "People often give up their goals because they are stressful, but we found that there is benefit at the end of the day from learning to do something well. And what's striking is that you don't have to reach your goal to see the benefits to your happiness and well-being."

Contrary to previous research, the study found that people who engage in behaviors that increase competency, for example at work, school or the gym, experience decreased happiness in the moment, lower levels of enjoyment and higher levels of momentary stress. Despite the negative effects felt on an hourly basis, participants reported that these same activities made them feel happy and satisfied when they looked back on their day as a whole. This surprising find suggests that in the process of becoming proficient at something, individuals may need to endure temporary stress to reap the happiness benefits associated with increased competency.

The study examined whether people who spend time on activities that fulfill certain psychological needs, believed to be necessary for growth and well-being, experience greater happiness. In addition to the need to be competent, the study focused on the need to feel connected to others and to be autonomous or self-directed, and it examined how fulfilling these three needs affects a person's happiness moment by moment within a day.

For two days, participants reported how they spent each hour, the enjoyment and stress experienced in that hour, and whether the activity met their need for competency, connectedness to others or autonomy. A second group of participants completed a similar survey, but reported on the day as a whole.

While behaviors that increase competency were associated with decreased happiness in the moment, people who spent time on activities that met the need for autonomy or feeling connected to others experienced increased happiness both an hourly and daily basis. The greatest increase in momentary happiness was experienced by participants who engaged in something that met their need for autonomy -- any behavior that a person feels they have chosen, rather than ought to do, and that helps them further their interests and goals.

The authors suggest that shifting the balance of needs met in a day could help people find ways to cope with short term stress in the workplace. "Our results suggest that you can decrease the momentary stress associated with improving your skill or ability by ensuring you are also meeting the need for autonomy and connectedness, for example performing the activity alongside other people or making sure it is something you have chosen to do and is true to who you are," Howell said.

Relating these momentary gains in happiness to people's long term life satisfaction, the study found that those who are already satisfied with their life in the long term stand to gain most from the momentary happiness that is derived from feeling connected to others and a sense of autonomy.

"Like a wine connoisseur whose experience means they can appreciate a fine wine more than a novice, people who are already satisfied with their life may have learned how to glean the satisfaction of these needs from their daily activities," Howell said.

Journal Reference: 1.Howell et al. Momentary Happiness: The Role of Psychological Need Satisfaction. Journal of Happiness Studies, 2009

quinta-feira, 21 de janeiro de 2010

Richard Bach Quotes

- The gull sees farthest who flies highest.

- For most gulls, it is not flying that matters, but eating. For this gull, though, it was not eating that mattered, but flight.

- Fly free and happy beyond birthdays and across forever, and we'll meet now and then when we wish, in the midst of the one celebration that never can end.
Fernão Capelo Gaivota

- I gave my life to become the person I am right now. Was it worth it?

- You are never given a wish without also being given the power to make it true.
The Bridge Across Forever: A Lovestory

- Here is a test to find whether your mission on Earth is finished: If you're alive, it isn't.

- Learning is finding out what you already know. Doing is demonstrating that you know it. Teaching is reminding others that they know just as well as you. You are all learners, doers, and teachers.

- Your friends will know you better in the first minute you meet than your acquaintances will know you in a thousand years.

- The mark of your ignorance is the depth of your belief in injustice and tragedy. What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly.

- Don't turn away from possible futures before you're certain you don't have anything to learn from them.
Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah

(The following presentation is from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

This article is about the author of Jonathan Livingston Seagull.
Richard David Bach (b. June 23, 1936, Oak Park, Illinois) is an American writer. He is widely known as the author of the 1972 best-selling novel, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, and the movie based on the book. He is noted for his love of flying and for his books related to air flight and flying in a metaphorical context. He has pursued flying as a hobby since the age of 17.

Life and work
Richard Bach attended Long Beach State College in 1955. He has authored numerous works of fiction and nonfiction, including Jonathan Livingston Seagull (1970), Illusions (1977), One (1989), and Out of My Mind (1999). Most of his books have been semi-autobiographical, using actual or fictionalized events from his life to illustrate his philosophy.

He served in the Air Force Reserve as a pilot, and afterwards worked a variety of jobs. He later became a barnstormer. Most of his books involve flight in some way, from the early stories which are straightforwardly about flying aircraft to his later works in which he used flight as a philosophical metaphor.

In 1972, Jonathan Livingston Seagull was published by Macmillan Publishers after the manuscript was turned down by several other publishers. The book, which included unique photos of seagulls in flight, became a number one best-seller on both the fiction and non-fiction lists. The book contained fewer than 10,000 words, yet it broke all hardcover sales records since Gone With the Wind. It sold more than 1,000,000 copies in 1972 alone. The surprise success of the book was widely reported in the media in the early 1970s.

In 1973, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, a story about a seagull who flew for the sake of flying rather than merely to catch food, was turned into a movie produced by Paramount Pictures Corporation. The movie included a soundtrack by Neil Diamond.

Bach's book, Illusions, published in 1977, is now in the movie-production phase (2006). It is being directed by French filmmaker Yann Samuell. For more information, visit

Bach has retained a dedicated fan base throughout the years. During the 1990s, Bach appeared online at Compuserve, where he answered e-mails personally. The website has since disappeared.

Bach had six children with his first wife, Bette. They divorced in 1970.

His second wife was actress Leslie Parrish, whom he met during the shooting of the movie Jonathan Livingston Seagull in 1973. They married in 1981 and his book, The Bridge Across Forever, is based on their courtship. They divorced and he has since remarried. He currently resides on the San Juan Islands in Washington State.

Bach espouses a consistent philosophy in his books: Our true nature is not bound by space or time, we are expressions of the Is, we are not truly born nor truly die, and we enter this world of Seems and Appearances for fun, learning, to share experiences with those we care for, to explore - and most of all to learn how to love and love again.

Of his divorce, Richard Bach wrote:

"Leslie and I are no longer married. Soul mates, to me, don't define themselves by legal marriage. There's a learning connection that exists between those two souls. Leslie and I had that for the longest time, and then a couple of years ago, she had this startling realization. She said, 'Richard, we have different goals!' I was yearning for my little adventures and looking forward to writing more books. Leslie has worked all her life long, and she wanted peace, she wanted to slow the pace, not complicate it, not speed it up. Not money, not family, no other men or other women, separated us. We wanted different futures. She was right for her. I was right for me. Finally it came time for us to make a choice. We could save the marriage and smother each other: 'You can't be who you want to be.' Or we could separate and save the love and respect that we had for each other. We decided the marriage was the less important. And now we're living separate lives.
"I believe that Leslie and I were led to find each other, led through the years we lived together, and led to part. There's so much to learn! When a marriage comes to an end, we're free to call it a failure. We're also free to call it a graduation. We didn't say, 'I guess we weren't led to each other, I guess we're not soul mates after all.' Our graduation was part of the experience we chose before we were born, to learn how to let each other go." [5]

Bach, Richard, "Stranger to the Ground" (1963) Dell reprint (1990), ISBN 0-440-20658-8
Bach, Richard, "Biplane" (1966) Dell Reprint (1990), ISBN 0-440-20657-X
Bach, Richard, "Nothing by Chance" (1969) Dell Reprint 1990, ISBN 0-440-20656-1
Bach, Richard "Jonathan Livingston Seagull" (1970) Macmillan, ISBN 0-380-01286-3
Bach, Richard, "A Gift of Wings" (1974) Dell Reissue (1989), ISBN 0-440-20432-1
Bach, Richard, "There's No Such Place As Far Away" (1976) Delta (1998), ISBN 0-385-31927-4
Bach, Richard, "Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah" (1977, ISBN 0-385-28501-9
Bach, Richard, "The Bridge Across Forever: A Love Story" (1984) Dell Reissue (1989), ISBN 0-440-10826-8
Bach, Richard, "One" (1988) Dell Reissue 1989, ISBN 0-440-20562-X
Bach, Richard, "Running from Safety" (1995) Delta, ISBN 0-385-31528-7
Bach, Richard, "Out of My Mind" (2000) Delta, ISBN 0-385-33490-7
Bach, Richard, "The Ferret Chronicles":
"Air Ferrets Aloft" (2002) Scribner, ISBN 0-7432-2753-0
"Rescue Ferrets at Sea" (2002) Scribner, ISBN 0-7432-2750-6
"Writer Ferrets: Chasing the Muse" (2002) Scribner, ISBN 0-7432-2754-9
"Rancher Ferrets on the Range" (2003) Scribner, ISBN 0-7432-2755-7
"The Last War: Detective Ferrets and the Case of the Golden Deed" (2003) Scribner, ISBN 0-7432-2756-5
"Curious Lives: Adventures from the Ferret Chronicles" (2005) Hampton Roads Publishing Company, ISBN 1-57174-457-6
Bach, Richard, "Flying: The Aviation Trilogy" (2003) Scribner, ISBN 0-7432-4747-7
Bach, Richard, "Messiah's Handbook: Reminders for the Advanced Soul" (2004), ISBN 1-57174-421-5

Notes and References
^ 20th-Century American Bestsellers, Accessed September 09, 2006
^ Walters, Raymond, Jr., New York Times Book Review, July 23, 1972, 43
^ The Christian Science Monitor (archive August 10, 2000) Accessed September 09, 2006
^ Bach, Jonathan, "Above the Clouds: A Reunion of Father and Son," (1993) ISBN 0-688-11760-0
^ Richard Bach: A Fan Site Accessed Sept. 11, 2006

terça-feira, 19 de janeiro de 2010

Avatar - even in 2D - reportedly too hot a property for China censors

Avatar - even in 2D - reportedly too hot a property for China censorsPatriotic biopic of Confucius to replace blockbuster that draws parallels officials fear may cause unrest, report says

Caroline Davies, Monday 18 January 2010 23.29 GMT Article history

China is to pull the plug on screenings of Avatar at most cinemas and replace the Golden Globe-winning film with a patriotic biopic on the life of Confucius, according to reports.

Hong Kong's Apple Daily said the state-run China Film Group has ordered cinemas across China to stop showing the 2D version of the film and to show only the 3D edition, amid concerns from China's censors that it could cause unrest. Because there are so few 3D cinemas on the mainland, the order effectively prevents general distribution of the James Cameron blockbuster.

Parallels have reportedly been drawn between the plight of the Na'vi, who face the threat of eviction from their woodland home, and those in China vulnerable to displacement by predatory property developers.

Bloggers are speculating about the toll Avatar could inflict on home-grown films. The Confucius picture is directed by Hu Mei and stars Chow Yun-fat as the sage.

"The Central Publicity Department is said to have issued an order to the media prohibiting it from hyping up Avatar," the newspaper said.

The film opened on 4 January to queues across the country, with Imax cinemas said to be booked for weeks ahead. It was due to run until 28 February, including over Chinese new year. Instead, the reports said, the 2D version will close on 23 January.

According to one reputable blog, the Wuxi Big World Cineplex posted the following notice to its website: "China Film Group Company and the distribution network have given notice that Avatar (all versions) will close immediately on 23 January all across the country! We ask your understanding! Viewers who have purchased tickets for the 23rd and the 24th may obtain a refund from the box office before the 22nd! To satisfy the viewing needs of the audience, the cinema will add midnight showings from the 21st and 22nd. Grab them quickly!"

The posting was later taken down, with the China News Agency, which spoke to the cinema, saying it had been an error. The 2D Avatar was to close on the 23rd but 3D showing would continue.


segunda-feira, 18 de janeiro de 2010

Mind the gap!

Essa é uma daquelas expressões simples de entender, e ao mesmo tempo estranhas.

É simples porque significa “Cuidado com o degrau”, “Cuidado com o desnível” ou ainda “Preste atenção no desnível”. Nada de outro mundo.

Mas é estranha porque… que diabos quer dizer mind nesse contexto? Mind não significa mente?

Sim, exatamente. Mas como a palavra banco em português, que tem vários significados (banco para sentar, banco onde você guarda suas economias, banco de dados, banco de areia, e por aí vai), muitas palavras no Inglês possuem vários significados. E é sempre útil aprender mais um deles, não? Então vamos lá!

Mind como mente é um substantivo, ou seja, uma coisa. Mas mind tambem serve como um verbo, ou seja uma ação, que significa “tome cuidado, preste atenção, cuidado”. É mais usado no imperativo, ou seja, quando você “manda” alguém prestar atenção em algo. Veja mais um exemplo de uso:

Mind that door, it’s not large enough. (Cuidado com a porta, ela não é larga o suficiente).



"Mind the gap" is a warning to train passengers of the gap between the train door and the station platform.

It was introduced in 1969 by the London Underground. The phrase is so associated with the Underground that Transport for London sells T-shirts with the phrase on a London Transport symbol.

Source: Wikipedia.

sexta-feira, 15 de janeiro de 2010

The Sweet History of Muffins

By Shauna Hanus

Muffin n. a small, cup-shaped bread, often sweetened and usually served hot.

The derivation of the word muffin comes from the French word moufflet which is often times applied to bread and means soft.

The two main types of muffins are English muffins and American style muffins. They vary in style as well as flavor and history.

English muffins are a flat yeast raised muffin with nooks and crannies that are cooked on a hot griddle. English muffin history dates all the way back to the 10th and 11th centuries in Wales. Early English muffins were cooked in muffin rings which were hooplike and placed directly on a stove or the bottom of a skillet.

American style muffins on the other hand are more of a quick bread that is made in individual molds. The molds are necessary due to the mixture being a batter rather than dough. These muffins were originally leavened with potash which produces carbon dioxide gas in the batter. When baking powder was developed around 1857 it put an end to the use of potash as well as to the profitable potash exports to the old country.

Muffin recipes first began to appear in print in the mid 18th century and quickly caught on. By the 19th century muffin men walked the streets of England at tea time to sell there muffins. They wore trays of English muffins on there heads and rang there bells to call customers to there wares.

Three states in the United States of America have adopted official muffins. Minnesota has adopted the blueberry muffin as the official state muffin. Massachusetts in 1986 adopted the Corn Muffin as the official state muffin. Then in 1987 New York took on the Apple Muffin as its official muffin of choice.

So next time you bite into a warm muffin think about its sweet history.

Shauna Hanus is a gourmet cook who specializes in creating gourmet recipes. She has extensive experience cooking with easy to find grocery items to create delightful gourmet meals. She is also the publisher of a no cost bi-monthly gourmet newsletter. Her newsletter is always fun and informational packed with tips and trivia you can use everyday. Sign up for her newsletter and learn more about Gourmayeats Weekly Recipe Club at

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segunda-feira, 11 de janeiro de 2010

Memorable quotes from Elizabeth Town

Drew Baylor: [embracing] Please don't take this as rejection.
Claire Colburn: I really don't.

[from trailer]
Hollie Baylor: Don't expect to be making any friends.
Heather Baylor: Drew doesn't have friends, Mom.
Drew Baylor: I have friends!

Drew Baylor: I'm gonna have to call you back...
Heather Baylor: Okay, just dial HELL and i'll answer.

Claire Colburn: Trust me. Everybody is less mysterious than they think they are.

Claire Colburn: We peaked on the phone.

text on an urn: KISS Forever

Claire Colburn: I'm impossible to forget, but I'm hard to remember.

Drew Baylor: So what are you doing right now?
Claire Colburn: [referring to Drew] I'm checking out this cute guy...
Drew Baylor: [disgusted face] Why are you telling me that?

Drew Baylor: [voiceover] There's a diffrence between a failure and a fiasco. A failure is merely the absence of success. Any fool can achieve failure. But a fiasco, a fiasco is a disaster of epic propotions. A fiasco is a folk tale told to other's to make other people feel more alive because it didn't happen to them.

Ellen Kishmore: Drew, it was real, and it was great, and it was really great.

Bill Banyon: Is there such a thing as partial cremation?

Claire Colburn: I'm one of a kind.

Claire Colburn: Do you ever just think I'm fooling everybody?
Drew Baylor: You have no idea.

Claire Colburn: Men see things in a box, and women see them in a round room.

Claire Colburn: I think I've been asleep most of my life.
Drew Baylor: Me too.

Claire Colburn: What they say is, it *will* hit you, it could be ten minutes or it could be ten years from now.

Claire Colburn: [voiceover] Don't get lost!

Drew Baylor: [on cremating his dad] That's the plan - that is the way it's gonna be guys! Sprinkled at sea!
Drew Baylor: [angrily] And that's the decision from California!
[then realising what he just said]
Drew Baylor: Shit, Oregon!
[men at table laughing]
Drew Baylor: We really are from Oregon!

Claire Colburn: Hey, you're only 45 minutes away. You wanna meet halfway and see the sunrise? At this point it's probably easier to stay up!
Drew Baylor: You think so?
Claire Colburn: I think that's what "they" say!

Drew Baylor: I see you right there. I see you right there.
Claire Colburn: There you are.

Drew Baylor: You know, there is nothing greater than deciding in your life that things maybe really are black and white! And this guy Ben, who clearly takes you for granted, who serially takes advantage of you, is bad! And what I'm saying is good! See what I mean? You shouldn't be the substitute for anybody. This guy should be right here, right now, doing this
[kisses Claire]
Drew Baylor: .

Drew Baylor: What is that word...? Whimsical!

Claire Colburn: Most of the sex I've had in my life was not as personal as that kiss.

Drew Baylor: No true fiasco ever began as a quest for mere adequacy. A motto of the British Special Air Force is: 'Those who risk, win.' A single green vine shoot is able to grow through cement. The Pacific Northwestern salmon beats itself bloody on it's quest to travel hundreds of miles upstream against the current, with a single purpose, sex of course, but also... life

Drew Baylor: And don't worry. Because as great as you look tonight, you are safe with me.

Claire Colburn: [voice over] Some music *needs* air. Roll down your window.

Claire Colburn: I don't know a lot about everything, but I do know a lot about the part of everything that I know, which is people.

Drew Baylor: And they all know me, and I don't know any of them. And I've never seen a dead body before.

Drew Baylor: I've just recently decided that the things we know aren't black and white.

Claire Colburn: And so we all became helpers, which I *so* can't help. I can't help helping.

Claire Colburn: I've spent so much time thinking about all the answers to the problem, that I forget what the problem *actually* was.

Drew Baylor: You're smart, you'll just wear your shoes and *never* ask any questions. Just enjoy your footwear.

Claire Colburn: To have never taken a solitary road trip across country? I mean everybody's got to take a road trip, at least once in their lives. Just you and some music.

Chuck Hasboro: Death and life. And death and life. Right *next door* to each other! There's like, there's a hair between them.

Chuck Hasboro: Okay, it's all about family bro.
Drew Baylor: Thank you, Chuck.
[they hug]

Drew Baylor: Did I miss 60B?

Drew Baylor: Because we have a moment here, let me tell you that I have recently become a secret connoisseur of 'last looks'. You know the way people look at you when they believe it's for the last time? I've started collecting these looks.

Drew Baylor: Can you imagine an entire life wrapped up in a shoe?

Hollie Baylor: All forward motion counts.

Claire Colburn: I want you to get into the deep beautiful melancholy of everything that's happened.

Hollie Baylor: It takes time to be funny. It takes time to extract joy from life.

Claire Colburn: I'm walking out the door... in last night's clothes.

Claire Colburn: Hey, now we actually have a shot at being friends for the rest of our lives.
Drew Baylor: The rest of our lives... hm...

Claire Colburn: Welcome to the annual meeting of people who annually meet, and we'll see ya'll next year.

Claire Colburn: Sadness is easier because its surrender. I say make time to dance alone with one hand waving free.

Claire Colburn: So you failed. Alright you really failed. You failed. You failed. You failed. You failed. You failed. You failed. You failed. You failed. You failed. You failed. You failed. You failed. You think I care about that? I do understand. You wanna be really great? Then have the courage to fail big and stick around. Make them wonder why you're still smiling.

Hollie Baylor: We were complete opposites and it worked. And something happened between us that was not part of the plan... we were in love.

Drew Baylor: In that moment, I knew success, not greatness, was the only god the world served.

Hollie Baylor: I was still waiting for everything to start, and now it's over.

Claire Colburn: I'm going to miss your lips. And everything attached to them.

Claire Colburn: You know, You're always trying to break up with me, and we're not even together.
Drew Baylor: I know... We're not?

Drew Baylor: I'm fine.

Jessie Baylor: This loss will be met with a hurricane of love.

Jessie Baylor: I teach my kids about the things that really matter. I will teach them about Abraham Lincoln and Ronnie Van Zandt, because they are equally important in my house.

Drew Baylor: You're great, Claire. Actually, you're kinda amazing.

Claire Colburn: [after learning that Drew's father is Mitch] Ah, so you're a son of a Mitch.

Claire Colburn: Never met a Mitch I didn't like. Fun, full of life. Like... everyone wants to be a part of Mitch's club.

Drew Baylor: We should've taken this trip years ago.

Hollie Baylor: [looking at a picture of Mitch] I love you. This is for you. Your favorite song on a Saturday night.
[Moon River plays]

(text written on a cloth above the stage): If it wasn't this... it'd be something else.

Drew Baylor: Beautiful night, does it ever cool off?
Jessie Baylor: No, this time of year its hotter than the hinges of hell, we got stars though...

Hollie Baylor: A few days after Mitch died I was walking through the yard and I saw our neighbor who was a very good friend of Mitch's, Bob, and he saw me coming through the gate, and he said, "I am so sorry for your loss." And I knew that he needed to feel that loss, too, and to share it, and I wanted to help him. And he put his arms around me, he cradled me, and his embrace tighted. Finally, here was somebody who truly cared. And then, I felt something else.
[audience starts laughing]
Hollie Baylor: Some-thing huge.
[the laughing gets harder, Drew and Heather look embarrassed]
Hollie Baylor: Let's just say it, let's just say it. A BONER!

Drew Baylor: [on phone] I am Currently stealing Chuck and Cindy's wedding beer.
Chuck Hasboro: You're a friend of Chuck's right?
Drew Baylor: Yes, yes I am
Chuck Hasboro: No you're not, I'm Chuck
Drew Baylor: ...Of... Chuck and Cindy?
Claire Colburn: [voiceover] Is that Chuck?
Drew Baylor: It's Chuck!

Drew Baylor: And who says we have to listen to 'them'?
Claire Colburn: *They* do!

Claire Colburn: Just tell me you love me and get it over with!

Phil DeVoss: I am ill-equipt in the philosophies of failure.

Claire Colburn: Life cannot be so cruel that we don't deserve to be together... to eat.

Drew Baylor: By the way, I didn't say 'million,' I said 'billion.' A billion dollars; that's a lot of million.

Claire Colburn: We are intrepid. We carry on.

quinta-feira, 7 de janeiro de 2010

The Spirit Messages from Elvis Presley

The Excerpts From The Book of Kings
The Spirit Messages from Elvis Presley
By Tatyana Elmanovich


Both content and evidence are equally important in spirit messages. Without evidence a message doesn't work. But in the present and exceptional case the search for evidence doesn't make sense. carries 471 titles about Elvis Presley. A number of mediums have proven they channel him. So, I posted these messages on our site because of the spirit communicator's wish to be heard and come clean regarding expressed issues.

Of course, I asked myself -- why me? When I arrived in this country in 1989, I was aware of Elvis Presley's media image. But I had no prior knowledge of Presley's saga, and I don't know his music. My first Presley CD was bought after receiving the following messages. Playing it, I discovered that I had heard all these songs during my 11 years in this country, but I did not know that they were Elvis Presley's songs. I am still wondering why I have been involved in all this? The honest answer would be -- I have no idea, and this is all I can say right now.

The Messages from Elvis Presley

The Churches In My Name Have To Be Stopped and Finished

Jun 19, 2000

E.P: There is no need to hide the sympathy toward me. Not knowing the music doesn't matter really. What matters is the ability to hear me. Not many people have it.

T: We know that you are working with a good medium.
E.P: She is fine and she is with me already. I would like to continue, if it is possible on a different level of talking about things that happened to me during my difficult stay on earth.

T: What's the problem of the day?
E.P: To stop praying for me, the churches [in his name instead of God's name -- T.E.] have to be stopped and finished. With Dean it is the same thing; it is hard on us on this side. It has to be stopped. God is to pray to, not us, the sinners and crowd pleasers, Love Me Tender, -- what it was, my God… They do not allow me to go to rest. They draw me back every time someone is loving and praying to me; I cannot stand it any more. They have to let me go, it is my time, it is time for me to go. I am unhappy with all these ropes that they attach to my name. I do not deserve this, and I do not deserve this low stay, no one deserves to stay so low. Your cat would be better off after death. Please, include this paragraph into your writing, please, publish it, and let it go to people… You have neat energy around your head, and I can see it. Now I let you go…

Bring the Boys Back

July 12, 1999

The following message sounds like a comment on the decision to send American peace- keeping troops in Europe during the Kosovo crises. At South Coast Plaza Mall I happened to run into an exhibition of photos on Elvis Presley. The same day, after that exhibition I received the following message.

E.P: "Bring back the boys, bring back the life, and don't let it happen…" I would sing it now, because they want war, I would sing, "Bring back the boys…" I wasn't at war, but I was there, in Germany, and I took it in, the pain, blood, and terror. And I am singing on this side, "Bring them back," because nothing else counts right now… I don't see any sense in anything else; there is a song, life is a song. I was there for them and I was melting away, slipping away one day, when they wanted too much of me. I was eating too much, drinking too much, loving too much, and I was doing too much of everything. I couldn't stand the pressure any more. I wanted to go home to freedom. I wanted to be free, to go home, home, home, I loved too much, they loved me. It was a sea of love, every concert, every concert we created an ocean of love, and it was spread around. Lennon did the same. You have to write about that; we spread energy, waves of love to those greedy rushing, empty people and we poured and poured, and they killed, killed, killed us, but we continued until life changed…

T: What really changed? No one loves no one. People hate each other. E.P: We cleansed the spiritual environment by our songs and fan clubs so long as we could. Fans created tremendous energy and it cleansed America. But when the heaven grew foggy, and became foggier and foggier, we couldn't do it any more, and we went out. Every one of us went out on his or her own way… This is why they created my religion. You saw the photo [on the South Coast Plaza exhibition] where they put my face into Jesus' face -- Jesus and I, I instead of Son of God. I am not a Jesus; I ate French fries. But like we say, the universal mind worked through me. I was connected, and I allowed it to come through so long as my body withstood the pressure. They send love through me down to earth; this is why they think now that I was like Jesus, because my songs made love! Take the boys back, take the boys back, nothing else matters. Today I would sing no other songs, no different songs. And if I would be on earth, I would be in jail, in real jail and for a long, long time. This is why they will not allow me to come down now. My time was at the beginning of high-tech revolution.

T: How do they clean up the air now?
E.P: It has to be done on earth. As we did it on earth. They don't know how to do that, and people will pay badly if they don't find out how… It is crazy now…

T: Have you met Vladimir Vissotski? (Elvis Presley's Russian counterpart)
E.P: Drugs were the problem. I couldn't get off. I measured my time out by drugs; he did the same. The drug was our problem. He betrayed himself. I did. Lennon did. What do you think, they all did, we all did. We couldn't go along with the time, and we couldn't go on, so we stepped out of time. And we did our part, exactly. We are okay; we are okay here. He (Vissotski) is okay. Our work is recognized. I am on a healing team, and you will work on a healing team when you come over here.

People Are Brothers
September 12, 2000

I found this message amazing!

E.P: Brothers can be friends, brothers can be enemies, brothers can kill each other but brothers are brothers and the work has to be done. Brethren share the blood and bloodlines carry genes that come to serve the world. It is hard to serve, but service is the purpose. Please, bring more light in, right now… I am sitting on a golden cloud and whistling a song... People, you are brothers. You share the same human blood and cells, and red blood cells make you brothers. Look at everyone as a brother even if you hate the guy. Okay, hate him if you cannot feel anything else, but know that you hate your brother. What about that? Yes, you despise him, but he is your brother. You are white, you are rich. A Haiti guy is black and fears spirits, but he is your brother. If you don't like him, you hate yourself. So you better stop hating, you better love yourself. Say you are black, you are poor, you are on drugs, and you hate white folks so badly that you want them out of your face. But the only thing that you get for your hatred is doors closing on yourself. Your kid will never learn if you suggest to him that learning is a white people's thing… Hatred is an arrow that boomerangs back to the source, straight into your heart or worse, into the hearts of your beloved ones. How about that? You hate whites but you will reap hatred of your own people against you. This is how it works. Whatever you do, at this end you arrive. I am going. The drug people still arrive in big volumes and in bad condition. I am through for now.

T: What do you have to do for them? Can you describe your routine? E.P: Drug related fear patterns are the problem; it is hard to dissect those images from their aura, but we try to do what we can. We try to ease up the terror in them from their own thinking, fears, hatred, greed, and jealousy. It is important to cleanse them so that they will wake up and start wishing to better their situation… There are many things that can be done for them. At the end comes talking and singing, but at the beginning, there has to be done a dissection of so-called devilish and demonic images and the so-called energy wash. Both new arrivals and the washers don't like talking about it. It is dirty work, but it has to be done. [On earth] people can help themselves through meditation. Here, we who have more energy are happy to help the addicts by focusing energy and almost "burning" their pain. It is hard to explain. And I am afraid to scare people by telling how it is done, and that thinking is everything. As you are in a negative place, you are not controlling much of your thought process, and it is wrong to judge you for you leisure and the slow speed of your mental energy exchange.

The Imitators
September 12, 2000

E.P: This is I, -- the king of love and exaggeration. I started to sing again after such long leg-breaking hospital work in rehabs for the folks in the same condition I was in. Now I have freedom to sing, but instead I have to wipe away all those terrible images of my imitators that pop up around me as some Halloween monsters. I have to deal with it. I am looking for someone who can help me to stop that swamping flow of cheap and horrible images, caricatures of me. They want to get in touch with fame through imitating me. What a lack of taste! What frustration…

The Next Incarnation
September 12, 2000

E.P: If I choose to, I may become an Italian opera singer of Enrico Caruso caliber. I probably will say 'yes' to that choice, because I don't see any other suitable choice. But there will be some unpleasant features that I will have to work on. While sinking back into the heavy earth environment, I will develop a terribly egotistic self-centered character all over again. It is a catch. I need that ego-based character for fulfilling my singing career and making it in the business. But as at the last time on earth, I also will cause a lot of suffering to my family, lovers, assistants, bodyguards and other people I will work with. Of course, my Memphis gang will be there for me, and my Graceland guards will show up to be paid for their devotion*. I'll pay all of them. They will be compensated not only for their dedication and good deeds but also for the evil -- frustration, nuisance, bad taste, attempt to create my religion, serving a false God and embarrassing people; for creating phony icons and raking money in for my suffering. I will be cruel toward people whose energy (presence) will make me recall all this, especially my fight with the flow of all these bad images on this side. For instance, by emptying pockets of poor people and selling false hopes that I perform miracles to those who pray to Elvis Presley. My God, I am not a god; I was a singing sinner to begin with, a crowd pleaser, a sucker… You there on earth -- please leave me alone, let me be here, and deal with my own baggage and don't make me cleanse yours. To those who continue to make money on me-- if you continue, sooner or later I will get you, and share some of my baggage with you.

To you -- The Russian occupation (of America) and American occupation (of Russia)! Leave it to politicians, stop judgment and comparison, and join the universal family of artists and scientists. The door is open, and you are invited!

I have to go (reincarnate -- T.E.) to old people, to Italy, to refine my ego, my personality and expand my education. Paolo Pasolini (1922-1975, a great Italian movie director, poet and linguist, murdered after finishing Salo -- The 120 Days of Sodom, a film about cruelty -T.E.) will go to America to advance in the entertainment industry and work on developing film technology into something else. I will become a singer in Italy in order to carry on the great tradition. So we trade places. My great number will be Don Juan, and I will do it my entire life, and Mozart is already helping me to learn it. On earth, there will be no time to learn. There will be not enough time to perform. The time will be over loaded with performances. I will be a mere function. As previously on earth, there will not be enough time for love and a personal life. It will again be a frustration, a mess. And the only person whom I really need will be my mother, like my mother Gladys was in the United States for me. I will demonstrate what the human voice is capable of and that will be it. Beauty will be the magnet, and beauty alone will be my goal. It will be a short incarnation -- some 42 years, and I will be done again. The first 5 years (the happy years!) will be filled with fighting for my place in the Sun and recognition from my peers. And the following 15 years will be filled with the nonstop stage performances, recorded by advanced recording technology that doesn't exist today. Fifteen years of a nonstop recording -- who could stand more! Who could ask for more! I will stay clean from drugs, alcohol and women. But the harder I avoid it all, the worse my character will grow. And this will be the very reason why I will stay on earth so short a time. I have to avoid the expansion of my baggage beyond the limits I can handle.

T: What baggage you are talking about, how do you experience it on the other side?
E.P: It is time to go… Auf Wiedersehen, talk to you some other time. __________________________

* This ironic paragraph made me find the book "What Happened?" by Red West, Sonny West, and Dave Hebler. Yes, the motif of the guards' devotion seemed to be a recurring narrative element in it. So, without seeking evidence, I found one, or it was given to support the project "The Book of Kings."


terça-feira, 5 de janeiro de 2010

How to read English texts if you want to improve your English

By Tomasz P. Szynalski,

Reading for content

Normally, when reading a text, people use a strategy that I call "reading for content". The goal of this strategy is to get the main idea of the text as quickly as possible and with as little effort as possible. To accomplish this goal, your brain will try to read as few words as possible and spend only a fraction of a second on each word.

For example, when reading the following passage, you don't really see it like this:

Once when I was six years old I saw a magnificent picture in a book, called True Stories from Nature, about the primeval forest. It was a picture of a boa constrictor in the act of swallowing an animal. Here is a copy of the drawing. In the book it said: "Boa constrictors swallow their prey whole, without chewing it. After that they are not able to move, and they sleep through the six months that they need for digestion."

I pondered deeply, then, over the adventures of the jungle. And after some work with a colored pencil I succeeded in making my first drawing.

To your brain, it looks more or less like this:

Once when I was six years old I saw a magnificent picture in a book, called True Stories from Nature, about the primeval forest. It was a picture of a boa constrictor in the act of swallowing an animal. Here is a copy of the drawing. In the book it said: "Boa constrictors swallow their prey whole, without chewing it. After that they are not able to move, and they sleep through the six months that they need for digestion."

I pondered deeply, then, over the adventures of the jungle. And after some work with a colored pencil I succeeded in making my first drawing.

Here are some characteristics of "reading for content":

•Not seeing "grammar words" like a, the, in, of, through, that. The eye only stops at content words (main nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs).
•Not seeing word forms: Was it look or looked? Has looked or had looked?
•Not noticing the exact spelling. It is well known that the brain recognizes whole words — it does not analyze them letter by letter. Native speakers see the word piece all the time, but many of them still misspell it as peice, because the two spellings have similar shapes.
•Ignoring difficult words that are not essential to understanding the meaning (here: primeval, constrictor). Who has the time to use a dictionary?

An extreme example of "word blindness" is the rather well-known puzzle where you're asked to count how many times the letter F occurs in the following passage:


The answer: Six times. The word of, being a grammar word, is not noticed by most people.

Reading for content is a great, time-saving way to extract information from printed sources. The problem is that you may not need the grammar words to understand a text, but you do need them to produce a text. So if you don't pay attention to things like articles and prepositions, you won't be able to use them correctly in your own sentences.

For example, here is a sentence from the opening paragraph of this article. Most learners (except those who are proficient in English grammar or extremely observant) will probably find it difficult to fill in the blanks:

To accomplish this goal, your brain will try to read as ___ words as possible and spend only a fraction of ___ second ___ each word.

The above explains why some learners can read a 300-page book and still have problems with relatively basic grammar. It also explains why articles and prepositions are among the hardest aspects of English to learn. The conclusion for the English learner is that if you want to improve your production (output) skills, you will have to train yourself to notice grammar words.

Here's an illuminating passage posted by Maya l'abeille at the Antimoon Forum:

I believe that seeing correct and typical English sentences helps a lot to learn how to use English properly. It is also important to read and read again every structure that is new to you, so that you can remember them. If you only read the book without taking any pause to think carefully about the "new" sentences, you will hardly remember any of them.

I've read all Harry Potter books straight myself, and when I opened them again, I realised I had viewed loads and loads of useful structures whithout remembering them - which was such a shame! I'm reading The Full Monty (Penguin Readers collection) using the "pause and think" method at present. Now after a few days of daily reading, when I take a look at an English text, many structures are familiar to me - "hey, I remember reading this one in The Full Monty!".

Therefore, I believe this method is efficient and I would advise it to all learners.

Sometimes, we don't realise how wealthy a single book can be - loads to learn just in one of them.

Pause and think

I agree with Maya l'abeille about the "pause and think" method. Here's the process that I recommend for dealing with sentences in texts:

1. Stop at interesting (not obvious) things: a new word, how a word was used, a grammatical structure, a preposition, an article, a conjunction, the order of words, etc. For example, spend a while to think about the fact that the sentence contains the preposition at, and not on. Perhaps the sentence uses the present perfect tense where you would have expected the past simple. Perhaps the word order is different than in your first language.
2. If the sentence contains a useful phrase, ask yourself: Could you produce a similar phrase yourself? Would you use the right tenses, articles and prepositions? Would you use the right word order? If you're not sure, practice saying a similar phrase aloud or in your mind. The idea is to move the phrase to your "active vocabulary".
3. If necessary, or if you feel like it, use your dictionary to find definitions of words in the sentence and get more example sentences. This will help enrich your "feel" of the word.
4. If you use SuperMemo, consider adding the phrase to your collection (e.g. as a sentence item) to make sure it will stay in your memory. Of course, only useful phrases should be added.
If you don't like to stop reading (to look up a word in your dictionary or add a phrase to SuperMemo), you can write down all the interesting sentences, or you can underline them in the book with a pencil. This way, you can handle these sentences later.

Another important piece of advice is that you don't have to use the above strategy all the time. Reading in this mode can be quite exhausting, so don't do it when you're tired after a long reading session. Also, do not try to give equal attention to every sentence. Some sentences in books (e.g. long poetic descriptions) do not contain phrases or structures that are useful for building your own sentences. Some characters in books use weird slang expressions which aren't very useful either.

Finally, the "pause and think" technique will not always make you remember the exact way to say something. But perhaps you'll remember that this particular type of sentence is "weird" or "difficult" in English. If you remember that, it will at least make you stop before you write that sentence, and look it up instead of making a careless mistake.

An example
I'll now give you a short demonstration of the "pause and think" method. Here are two English sentences and examples of thoughts that you should get when reading them:

Former President Jimmy Carter will visit Venezuela next week to mediate talks between the government and its opposition, which have been locked in a power struggle since a failed coup.
•"Former President" — not "The former President", so I guess we say "President Carter" and not "The President Carter", even though we say "The President will do something" when we don't mention his name.
•"to mediate talks" — not "to mediate in the talks" or something like that. I wonder if that would be OK, too...
•"power struggle" — I think I've seen this phrase before.
•"since a failed coup" — so I can say "He's been paralyzed since an accident" (preposition use), not only "He's been paralyzed since an accident happened" (conjunction use).
•"since a failed coup" — not "since the failed coup". The author does not assume we know about the coup.
•"coup" — hey, I know this is pronounced [ku:]!
Jennifer McCoy, of the Atlanta-based Carter Center, told reporters Saturday that Carter may be able to help break the political deadlock when he visits beginning July 6.
•"Jennifer McCoy of the Carter Center" — not "Jennifer McCoy from the Carter Center" (in Polish I would say from). So we'd say "John Brown of IBM", for example.
•"Atlanta-based" — another way of saying "based in Atlanta". Guess I could say I'm a "Wroclaw-based webmaster".
•"told reporters Saturday" not "on Saturday" — seems we can skip the "on" sometimes. "I met her Friday" would probably work as well as "I met her on Friday".
•"told that Carter may be able" — not "told that Carter might be able" — lack of reported (indirect) speech. And my English teacher taught me to say things like "She said she might stay" (not "She said she may stay").
•"to help break the deadlock" — It looks like help can be used without an object (it does not say "to help Venezuelans break the deadlock"), and without to (it does not say "help to break the deadlock"). This is different from some other verbs like force (we cannot say "The President will force break the deadlock", we must say "The President will force Venezuelans to break the deadlock.").
•"when he visits" — not "when he will visit", even though it will be in the future. I don't think I have ever seen will used in such a sentence.
•"to visit beginning July 6" — interesting structure — I would say "to visit on July 6", but here beginning replaces on. This may be the first time that I've seen this phrase. It may be some sort of news jargon.

Reading everywhere

If you think you don't have time to read, try to carry a book with you everywhere you go. That way, you can read when you're waiting in line, waiting for a bus, or even when walking (but make sure you don't walk into other people or vehicles).


segunda-feira, 4 de janeiro de 2010

Interview with Bill Bryson

The first thing to realize about Bill Bryson is that he fits everywhere. And nowhere. Which is perhaps the very thing that has given him the ability to share places with all of us so vividly.

Born and raised in the United States, Bryson moved to the United Kingdom when he was a young man and started his career as a journalist and travel writer there. In fact, Bryson was a well-loved and wildly selling British author before his books even raised an eyebrow "at home." At the time, home was in the UK and his wife and four children are all British subjects. In fact, it wasn't until 1996 that Bryson moved his family back to the United States where they now make their home. A passel of little Brysons with British vocal inflections and half American hearts. Well, maybe.

Bryson is mild of voice and manner. Gentle. Even charming in a sweet and innocent sort of way. He speaks rapidly, yet succinctly, articulating his thoughts -- in person and on paper -- in a no-nonsense manner that, nonetheless, always leaves room for fun. Not for Bryson the heavy prose of a Paul Theroux or Bruce Chatwin (Brits both). Nor, also, the youthful exuberance of a Will Ferguson or a David Sedaris (both from the North American side of the pond). In his travel books, Bryson looks at places baldly, unmasks any natural humor that might be lurking, gives us a glorious glimpse and then moves on. In personal as well as professional style Bryson is the perfect blend of all that has influenced him. An American with a British soul, gone away again and it shows in his voice, in his personal style and, of course, most of all in his writing: hilarious and informative looks at places that he shares with us unstintingly.

His latest book, entitled In a Sunburned Country in North America and Down Under in the UK, takes us on the most intimate and informative tour of Australia perhaps ever published. In fact, Australians will likely read it and learn things they never knew about their own country. At the very least, they'll be proud of the enthusiastic and fun glow Bryson has brought to this work. The publication of the book was timed to coincide with the 2000 Olympics in Sydney in September of 2000.

Linda Richards: Do you find that traveling for a book tour is anything like the research trips you do for your travel books? That is, do you enjoy this part of the writing process? The promotional parts?

Bill Bryson: Most parts of book tour are really fun. You know, you get to eat at someone else's expense. You get looked after very well. You stay in nice hotels. You meet people who generally have enjoyed the stuff you've written. It's almost all fairly positive. The only downside is just the headache of traveling. Like, I set off at this morning to catch an early flight and I didn't get the early flight and I ended up spending four and a half hours at the airport in Seattle, which was ridiculous. I could almost have hitchhiked here faster than I got here.

There were a couple of editions of your last book, including entirely different titles. One edition in North America and another in the UK. How did that happen?

It was Notes From a Big Country in the commonwealth and it was I'm A Stranger Here Myself in the States. What happened was in the British edition they just took the first 18 months of [U.K. newspaper] columns -- all of them but one or two -- and just put them in. By the time the Americans got around to publishing, I'd done the column for two years and they had an extra six months worth of stuff to choose from. And I just left it to the editor in New York to choose. His decision was to toss out anything that was kind of critical or controversial and he filled it up with a lot of other stuff I'd done in the last six months. Some of it was pretty good and I was sorry that it wasn't in the British edition, but I hadn't written it by the time the British edition came out.

So Notes From a Big Country was like a book you almost didn't have to write, because you'd written it piece by piece for the newspaper column.

Yes. It was a dream come true. [Laughs] Actually, you've put your finger on it more than you know because I took the column on reluctantly at first. I did it for three or four months and I thought: Well, this isn't too bad. And they talked me into doing it for a year. The column was for The Mail on Sunday in London. And I could do whatever I wanted, they didn't put any restrictions on me so I agreed to do it for a year and at the end of a year I was very happy. I didn't want to do it anymore and my UK publisher said to me: Well, you know if you did it for another six months it would be enough for a book. You've got a book two thirds written. So I agreed to do it for another year, though it was a lot harder to do in the second year even though I thought some of my better stuff was in the second year. But it's just that I was beginning to run out of ideas by the time I got to the end of the second year. It's just such a commitment: having a weekly thing that's got to be done whether you feel like it or not. I was trying to do other stuff at the same time: book tours and magazine assignments and other kinds of commitments. So it was just kind of a nuisance.

And then there was a tremendously successful book at the end of it.

Yes. And this was a book that I didn't really have to write. I'd written it in pieces and I'd been paid for them. Gravy doesn't get any thicker than that. [Laughs]

Are you working on anything now?

No. Usually there's quite a time lag between finishing the manuscript and then going out on a book tour. Months and months, a year sometimes. This time there wasn't. Because of the Olympics being the critical factor, they wanted the book out in good time for [that]. And nobody knew how many other Australian books were going to be out. The US publisher's thinking was: If there are a lot of books on Australia, they'll all be reviewed as roundups and they didn't want to risk that as no one is going to do them separate. So they wanted to make sure it was out by June in case there were a lot of Australian books. I think they were right, in that sense. But it meant that I printed out the manuscript on December 31st to avoid all those Y2K problems [Laughs] and sent it off that week and then, as I say, usually there's this great lag time and you don't hear from anybody for months and you start thinking about your next book and go off and begin working on it. So that by the time you go on a book tour for the book that's just been published, you're already kind of working on your next book. Then when somebody asks you: What's your next book? You know. But there hasn't been that. And I haven't really had a chance to stop and think about what I want to do.

It's fun, because last time you told me all about this book.

I really wish I could do that! [Laughs] All I know at the moment is [that] I want to spend some time at home. I did a lot of traveling to do the research for the Australian book, as you can imagine. Then I've had an awful lot of stuff that's taken me away ever since. Magazine assignments and a long period of book touring. When all of that is sort of wrapped up in November, I know that the first thing I'm going to want to do is spend some time at home. So whatever I do for my next book it will be something that involves some research up front because I'll spend next winter at home, reading and thinking. I certainly won't go off right away and suddenly do a travel book.

Did you say that the book tour is going to end in November?

Yeah: the book tour and other things. I'll spend into August doing Australia and New Zealand. October is all of UK and Ireland and then I come back and do two more weeks in the States and probably in Canada. That brings us almost to the middle of November.

Well, I'm glad I got you fresh!

Yeah, I could be heartily sick of it by November, as you can imagine.

Well, you're traveling. But it's not the same though, is it?

It's not the same at all. I mean, there are good parts. Like tomorrow I'm off and the forecast is good, so I'll have a great day tomorrow. I'll go out and have a really long walk and I'll have a great day. So it's not like it's totally devoid of fun. But most of your days are spent traveling to places and then just being at radio stations and shopping centers and so on. I've reached the point where all I think about is what I've got to do that day. I always bring a laptop with me and a sheaf of papers I should be dealing with. And I think: Oh, if I have some down time I'll do that. But I never do it. If I have any down time I just watch television. Or go for a walk. I don't know why I drag this laptop around with me: I won't ever plug it in on the whole trip. But it makes me feel as though I have the possibility of doing something productive.

Walking is sure a good way to acclimatize yourself, isn't it? A good way to get a sense of a city.

It's the only way to see a city, I think. And it's what I really enjoy doing. I love that business of getting up early in the morning and getting out -- especially if it's a nice day and everything -- and just constantly deciding at every corner: Oh, this looks nice. I think I'll go this way. And just kind of not knowing where you're going to end up. Coming back dog tired at night. To me that's just a perfect day.

You loved Australia.

I did. I couldn't help myself. [Laughs] I mean, I really didn't expect to. I never expected to dislike it. I knew I'd enjoy it. But I didn't think I was going to become completely captivated by the place. And I did. I was. I just really, really liked it. It's a very agreeable place. Nice places to eat and drink and sit in the sun and a very easy going lifestyle. Nice people and all that. So it's very appealing at that level. But also it's just a lot more interesting than I thought. The history is a lot more interesting.

More interesting than what?

I thought, you know, big empty country, young: it hasn't got a very big population base with which to produce achievements and history and stuff. And it hasn't been going all that long: it hasn't had a great time span. Yet, with relatively few people and in a fairly short time, their history is very eventful and interesting. I didn't know anything about their gold rushes, for instance. And their gold rushes are at least as interesting as the California gold rushes or the Canadian gold rushes. The stories of who came and what they did and what happened and everything are really, really interesting. All of the natural history is unusual and, particularly from the outside, it's very exotic.

The feeling you have when you hear a story or you read something in the paper, something that's news to you, and you want to go immediately and tell people: Did you see that story? Here, read this. And you kind of want to share it. But I felt like that all the time in Australia. Everything I was reading or hearing or learning was stuff that I didn't know about before then. And it was just so interesting that I just wanted to rush off and tell everybody.

You comment on that early in the book. That Australia is like the world's best kept secret. And how you'd done a search on news stories about Australia in The New York Times and in one year there were fewer stories than had been done on bananas.

That's right! It was. Literally. The country is just completely ignored. But it's not ignored because it's boring. It's just ignored because nobody is watching it. We don't pay any attention to it.

Like the nuclear testing by that cult group.

Right. The Aum Shinri Kyo. It's amazing. That these people could just make their own nuclear bomb, put it off in the desert and nobody would notice it. I mean, God!

For four years.

Right. And then it was just kind of a fluke that somebody somewhere kind of put two and two together.

Do you have a favorite story from Australia?

The two things that were the most unexpectedly wonderful were Ayers Rock or Uluru, as it's properly known now, and the Great Barrier Reef. Both of them, by the time you get to them, you feel as though you've already seen them.

They were two places I went to sort of out of sense of duty. If you're doing a book on Australia, you've got to go to Ayers Rock and you've got to go to the Great Barrier Reef. I wasn't aching to see either one of these things. Especially Ayers Rock: it's right in the middle of the country and a long way from anywhere. You've really got to want to get to it. And it's a rock. Just an object in the middle of the desert. How interesting can that be?

So I went thinking: OK. I'll go and see it because I have to. And I got there and it was just wonderful. Just totally arresting. Completely mesmerizing in a way I'd never expected. Almost in a kind of weird way. It felt as if there was something special -- something primitive -- in a sense. The only thing I can liken it to is -- I don't know if you remember in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey when they find the monoliths that have obviously been put there by somebody else? That kind of feeling: it feels almost as though they were put there by some alien people as a kind of marker or something. I obviously don't believe that's what happened. But that sort of feeling. It was uncanny.

The Great Barrier Reef was good in much the same way. I'm not interested in aquatic environments and fish swimming around and -- you know, you go and see it and tell me about it this evening. I went out there and I was just completely transfixed. I didn't expect that at all. It's so beautiful and there's just so much and there's just a wealth of different kinds of things there.

So both of those are things that I didn't think could possibly exceed their reputations and did.

I loved the part about the date farm at Alice Springs. The desert environment you get to pay to go see in the desert. I loved the deadpan of it: You mean to tell me they've recreated a desert environment in the desert?

That was about the size of it. [Laughs]

It was ironic. But there's lots of irony in this book. You always see irony, don't you? You see irony where other people don't always see it.

I suppose it helped to have lived in Britain for a long time, because they do specialize in that. Though I'm sure I learned a lot of that in Britain, I also think that's part of why I responded to Britain. I can remember when I first went there thinking: These people are really funny. I like this. It was as if I was sort of wired for this but the connection had never been made. In Iowa you didn't get that kind of humor. So it was as if a switch had been flipped and I suddenly had this sort of new neural circuits that were lighting up. And I thought: God, this is great. I love it.

So yeah, I really do like deadpan and irony and understatement and all that. I think it's brilliant. When it works, I just think it's great. There's something just so terrific about a good deadpan joke.

You were born in 1951?


How many children?

Four. Two boys, two girls. The boys are nine and 21. And the girls are 15 and 20.

Do they think you're funny?

Sometimes, but not really. Mostly they just think I'm kind of dumb. I guess everyone thinks their dad is dumb, especially if dad makes jokes.

"Dad thinks he's funny."

And I am dumb. With them, I am dumb. Like when I'm driving I like to comment on stuff. One I always remember is a Pennsylvania state license plate with a slogan on it -- they've all got a slogan on them. And this one said: You've got a friend in Pennsylvania. And I used to always love to say: Well, why doesn't he call? The kids just thought this was so stupid: Get a life, Dad. So no, they don't think I'm terribly uproarious.

Is your wife a writer as well?

No. She's a nurse by training. Psychiatric nurse. Which of course she always says was great training. [Laughs] But very quickly after I started freelancing she had to give up working because with me going away so much, somebody has to be there reliably with four kids. She really couldn't. So she kind of runs everything.

Who is your favorite travel writer? Who do you read?

I really like Redmond O'Hanlon. And I really like Tim Cahill. And what I like about both of them is that they are proper travelers. They go to dangerous places. They engage in high risk activities. But they also write very, very well and are both extremely funny. And, you know, as someone who toils at that end of the literary spectrum, you can appreciate when someone writes a really good comic passage. I read them and kind of think: I wish I had done that. That's really good. And also, Redmond O'Hanlon, more than Tim Cahill, is extremely learned. He's a trained naturalist. And he writes with great knowledge about all kinds of things to do with wildlife and birds and stuff without showing off. Not easy to do and he just sort of tosses off his knowledge very lightly.

You do that very well, though.

Well, that's very kind of you to say, but they do it so well. They're just really great writers. I don't read a lot of travel literature. I kind of like to get away from it. It's kind of like, you know, being a brain surgeon and having to read neurological magazines or something. For pleasure I wouldn't necessarily read travel stuff. But when I do read it, almost every writer -- even the guys I don't particularly like -- there's always a lot of stuff to admire. Because, you know, you've tried to do the same sort of thing at some point. Describe a sunset or the mountains. So when you see somebody else who's done it really well, you think: I know that that wasn't easy.

But nobody does quite what you do. Look at things so knowledgeably and so well and funny, too. You don't seem to take yourself very seriously, in a very delightful way.

It's very kind of you to say. I'm increasingly enjoying the challenge of trying to be amusing here and actually be more serious there. The thing that I think I've learned from writing is that you can write funny books, but they don't have to be funny in every line. Because at first I thought you had to just keep providing jokes. And I think it wears thin after a while. You can't keep it up. There's a reason why standup comedians aren't up for six hours at a time. There's a limit to how much of that you want. My own feeling is that it works more effectively if you dispense it in dribs and drabs. But, also, there's room in these books for slightly more sober reflection. It's kind of interesting and a challenge to move back and forth between those things and trying to keep it so it sounds coherent.

Have you ever been to a place that was just so horrible you didn't want to say anything about it?

The closest I came was the Appalachian trail in Walk in the Woods. Because every day when you're hiking it's the same endlessly repetitive activity. You're walking essentially the same landscape day after day. You're in the woods and tomorrow you'll be in those same woods. And the day after. I had kind of a feeling of panic much of the time we were walking because: What am I going to say in this book? We're not doing anything. All we're doing is just advancing in these tiny little increments day after day and nothing's happening. We're not really meeting people most of the time. We're not having interesting conversations. Encounters with wildlife or anything.

I had no notes, I had nothing. If you read the book, I don't talk [in] very much detail about the actual walking. I do at first just to kind of establish what we're doing and this is what it's like but then, you know, I tend to say: And so we walked for the next week. That's about as much as I'd have to say about the actual physical walking. Then I'd go off on these tangents, talking about wilderness and national parks or US Forest Service or something like that.

Walking just happens to be the thread that ties it all together?

Yeah. Because there wasn't really anything to say. And it's an awful feeling of being four weeks into the hike and feeling committed to something and thinking: I'm never going to get a book out of this.

But you got a very successful book out of it.

Yes. But there was no overmatter. There was nothing left. Everything: every scrap of paper, every newspaper clipping, every factoid I'd come out with. The manila envelopes were empty when I'd finished that book. Of course, with Australia there was all kinds of stuff left. There was lots more I could have done. But I just thought: Well, maybe people have had enough of explorers. Or, maybe they'd had enough natural history. Because there were lots of other good stories. July 2000

Linda L. Richards is the editor of January Magazine. Her fourth novel, Death was the Other Woman, is published by St. Martin's Minotaur/Thomas Dunne Books.

Read January Magazine's 1997 interview with Bill Bryson

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