Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Quote / Citação (16)

"It's probably fair to say that in all the years of Hitler's reign, no person was able to serve the Führer as loyally as me. A human doesn't have a heart like mine. The human heart is a line, whereas my own is a circle, and I have the endless ability to be in the right place at the right time. The consequence of this is that I'm always finding humans at their best and worst. I see their ugliness and their beauty, and I wonder how the same thing can be both. Still, they have one thing that I envy. Humans, if nothing else, have the good sense to die."

Markus Zusak, The Book Thief (2005)

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Quote / Citação (15)

"And while of course it behooves a man to break the head of any Mexican kept in blind ignorance who's been shipped in to steal your job," preached the Reverend Moss Gatlin, who, never one to forgo a good fight, had been here since the strike was called, "we must also understand how eminently practical in the long term is Christian forbearance, if by it we may thus further the dumb scab's education, just as your own insulted heads at Cripple and the San Juans once got beaten into them the lesson that a job however obtained is sacred, even a scab's job, for it carries the ironclad obligation to resist from then on the forces of ownership and the mills of evil, with whatever means are available unto you all."


"I saw the Death Special, Ma." This was a rumored and widely feared armored motorcar, with two colt machine guns on it, mounted fore and aft, that the Naldwin-Felts "detective" agency had come up with for penetrating, controlling, and thinning down the size of ill disposed crowds.


... one look at these red faces and bulging eyes and he understood that if it should come down to it, he would not be able to save his life, or his mother's or Dunn's, by appealing to anything these grownups might feel for kids, even kids of their own.... Pretending to have a friendly chat with potential targets or their Death Special was a level of evil neither boy had quite suspected in adults till now.


"With a rifle it's too personal," one of the Guardsmen said, "when you're sighting 'em in one by one, gives you a minute to get to know them 'fore you do your deed, but this 'sucker  time it takes to get your finger off of the trigger it's already fired ten or twenty rounds, so there's no question of careful aiming , you just pick out what they call a zone you want to tear up, even shut your eyes if you want, don't matter, it's all done for you."
"Even if they surrounded it, shot out the tires, we could hold out inside till help showed up."
"Or plow a path right through 'em and out the other side," added the other one, "and escape that way."

Thomas Pynchon, Against the Day (2006)

Monday, 16 September 2013

Cenas (6)

Para começar, algo verdadeiramente interessante, uma visão rápida da história geopolítica da Europa e arredores.

First of all, something really interesting, a quick review of the geopolitical history of Europe and neighbouring regions.


Agora um projecto que me parece louvável: um website onde se enumeram as várias situações em que a Bíblia se contradiz, com direito a citação das frases em que isso se verifica. Já muita gente sabe que a Bíblia se contradiz, e nem é só nas diferenças entre o velho e o novo testamento, mas mesmo dentro de cada um. No entanto estes erros, por não serem só em detalhes "históricos", mas também de incoerência na mensagem transmitida, servem não para nos dar novidades, mas para contradizer os crentes cegos da "palavra" que têm a mania de cumprir e mandar cumprir à letra o que leram algures no livro que é para eles sagrado. O site permite a pesquisa das contradições por localização mas também por temática e ainda destaca na página inicial algumas situações mais graves de erros científicos ou indicações incoerentes a nível de discriminação de género ou sexualidade. É assim fácil mostrar o erro gigante que comete quem se propõe a seguir sem reservas o exemplo que retira da Bíblia, não só por poder enganar-se gravemente na sua interpretação mas também porque o livro em si não tem uma única mensagem clara e coerente para passar aos seguidores da religião que representa. Ler a Bíblia como inspiração ou até por interesse literário ou histórico-mitológico parece-me óptimo, mas querer encontrar nela uma base ou comprovativo para definir regras e comportamentos sociais é terrível.

Now for something completely different, a project that I must commend: a website where the multiple cases of contradiction within the Bible are enumerated and quoted. Of course it is widely known that the Bible has numerous contradictions and not even limited to the differences between the two testaments. However, these mistakes, not only in "historical" details but also showing incoherence in the message transmitted, are good arguments against those believers that seem to want to follow blindly what they read there and make other do the same. The site allows one to search by location along the Bible but also by theme and it also highlights some situations of serious scientific mistakes and incoherent indications in terms of gender or sexual orientation discrimination. Thus it is quite ease to demonstrate the enormous error that someone commits when following literally and without reserve or critique whatever example one takes from the Bible, not only because of the possible interpretation mistakes but also because the book itself doesn't even have a clear and coherent message to pass to the believers. To read the Bible as an inspiration or for literary or historical and mythological interest seems perfectly fine, but to try and use it to define the rules and right behaviours in human society is terribly wrong.


Para terminar, algo que me fez sorrir. Não que eu esteja a preparar algum livro. Pelo menos não agora. Talvez um dia.

Something that made me smile. Not that I have any book to publish. At least not now. I might try it eventually. Just need to spend a few more years eating chocolate, raking leaves and buy a typewriter.

How to Publish Your Book
  Explore more infographics like this one on the web's largest information design community - Visually.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Quote / Citação (14)

“So of course we use them,” Scarsdale well into what by now was his customary stem-winder, “we harness and sodomize them, photograph their degradation, send them up onto the high iron and down into mines and sewers and killing floors, we set them beneath inhuman loads, we harvest from them their muscle and eyesight and health, leaving them in our kindness a few miserable years of broken gleanings. Of course we do. Why not? They are good for little else. How likely are they to grow to their full manhood, become educated, engender families, further the culture or the race? We take what we can while we may. Look at them—they carry the mark of their absurd fate in plain sight. Their foolish music is about to stop, and it is they who will be caught out, awkwardly, most of them tone-deaf and never to be fully aware, few if any with the sense to leave the game early and seek refuge before it is too late. Perhaps there will not, even by then, be refuge.
“We will buy it all up,” making the expected arm gesture, “all this country. Money speaks, the land listens, where the Anarchist skulked, where the horse-thief plied his trade, we fishers of Americans will cast our nets of perfect ten-acre mesh, leveled and varmint-proofed, ready to build on. Where alien muckers and jackers went creeping after their miserable communistic dreams, the good lowland townsfolk will come up by the netful into these hills, clean, industrious, Christian, while we, gazing out over their little vacation bungalows, will dwell in top-dollar palazzos befitting our station, which their mortgage money will be paying to build for us. When the scars of these battles have long faded, and the tailings are covered in bunchgrass and wildflowers, and the coming of the snows is no longer the year’s curse but its promise, awaited eagerly for its influx of moneyed seekers after wintertime recreation, when the shining strands of telpherage have subdued every mountainside, and all is festival and wholesome sport and eugenically-chosen stock, who will be left anymore to remember the jabbering Union scum, the frozen corpses whose names, false in any case, have gone forever unrecorded? who will care that once men fought as if an eight-hour day, a few coins more at the end of the week, were everything, were worth the merciless wind beneath the shabby roof, the tears freezing on a woman’s face worn to dark Indian stupor before its time, the whining of children whose maws were never satisfied, whose future, those who survived, was always to toil for us, to fetch and feed and nurse, to ride the far fences of our properties, to stand watch between us and those who would intrude or question?” He might usefully have taken a look at Foley, attentive back in the shadows. But Scarsdale did not seek out the eyes of his old faithful sidekick. He seldom did anymore. “Anarchism will pass, its race will degenerate into silence, but money will beget money, grow like the bluebells in the meadow, spread and brighten and gather force, and bring low all before it. It is simple. It is inevitable. It has begun.”

Thomas Pynchon, Against the Day (2006)

Saga Volume 2 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

Depois de ter adorado o primeiro volume, não tive dúvidas em encomendar o segundo e lê-lo mal chegasse. Continuando a história interessante iniciada no primeiro, este não tem no entanto o factor surpresa que tornou o primeiro espectacular. Gostei especialmente de conhecer os pais do Marko e da história com que este segundo volume termina. À parte disso, este livro dá uma sensação de ser essencialmente uma ponte entre a introdução e o próximo evento relevante. No entanto há que admitir Brian K. Vaughan e Fiona Staples conseguem ainda assim manter o interesse e entusiasmo com a história, de forma que mal posso esperar pelo próximo.
Continuo a recomendar a leitura de Saga sem reservas e estou especialmente interessado em ver como vão explorar aquela realeza com televisões em vez de cabeças.


After loving the first volume, I didn't hesitate in ordering the second and reading it as soon as I got it. Is spite of being an interesting continuation of the story began in the previous book, this lacks that "wow factor" that made the first one spectacular. I specially liked getting to know Marko's parents and also enjoyed the final part of this volume. Other than these, this book does seem like a filler. However, one must admit that Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples still manage to keep the reader interested and enthusiastic with their story.
I still recommend reading Saga with no reservations and I'm looking forward to finding out how they are going to explore that royalty with TV set's for heads.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Quote / Citação (13)

"I found myself back in the sepulchral city resenting the sight of people hurrying through the streets to filch a little money from each other, to devour their infamous cookery, to gulp their unwholesome beer, to dream their insignificant and silly dreams. They trespassed upon my thoughts. They were intruders whose knowledge of life was to me an irritating pretence, because I felt so sure they could not possibly know the things I knew. Their bearing, which was simply the bearing of commonplace individuals going about their business in the assurance of perfect safety, was offensive to me like the outrageous flauntings of folly in the face of a danger it is unable to comprehend. I had no particular desire to enlighten them, but I had some difficulty in restraining myself from laughing in their faces so full of stupid importance."

Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness (1902)

Great Pacific Vol.1: Trashed! by Joe Harris and Martin Morazzo

Foi-me dada a oportunidade de ler esta BD através do NetGalley. A ideia de uma história em que o protagonista decide fazer dum monte de lixo flutuante um país criou-me expectativas muito altas para um princípio que, ainda que longe de ser mau, não me conseguiu convencer.
Joe Harris tem muitas ideias para esta obra e talvez tenha tentado usar demasiadas logo nos primeiros números, de forma que antes de conseguir sequer perceber com que tipo de protagonista estou a lidar já ele foi exposto a um sem número de situações mais ou menos descabidas que apesar de tudo parecem nunca ter o devido impacto nele. Há, para além disto, uma mistura mal definida entre elementos de ficção científica ambientalista utópica e uma série de acontecimentos e elementos de dúbia credibilidade que me recordaram a minha recente experiência com o pós-modernismo. Esta mistura podia claramente originar uma BD genial, mas no caso, talvez por alguma falha na forma de contar a história, na fluidez do enredo ou da falta de um princípio mais consistente e convincente, simplesmente não me entusiasmou.
A ilustração, a cargo de Martin Morazzo, é competente, em especial a nível de background e mesmo de alguns elementos, mas é medíocre na caracterização de algumas personagens,  tendo painéis muito bons e momentos em que não está de todo bem conseguida e acaba por ser contra-producente para a leitura.

Sendo assim, esta é a meu ver uma BD mediana, que nem me faria prosseguir nem desaconselhar a sua leitura. No entanto, tenho visto na internet que os números seguintes - a ser coleccionados num segundo volume - são substancialmente melhores, pelo que pondero dar-he mais essa oportunidade, até porque quero muito que este conceito resulte.

Resta-me lembrar que o Great Pacific garbage patch existe mesmo e talvez devesse justificar uma alteração considerável da forma como nós fazemos uma grande parte das nossas actividades, não?


I had access to Great Pacific Volume 1: Trashed through NetGalley. The concept of a guy trying to turn a heap of trash into a nation really raised my expectations ever since I heard of it, probably too much for a beginning that, though far from bad, didn't really make my day.
Joe Harris has a lot of ideas for this work and maybe he just tried to use too many right from the start, resulting in a protagonist that is exposed to too many odd situations before I even know who he really is and that seem to have no palpable impact on him. I also had some trouble with the strange mixture between ecological utopian science fiction items and a series of events and elements that reminded me of post-modern narrative, something that could have been awesome but ended up uninteresting, perhaps due to some failure in storytelling, lack of flow or of a consistent and convincing beginning.
Martin Morazzo's illustration  is competent, specially in terms of background and some specific elements, but is mediocre when considering some character's characterization, ending up with some very good panels and moments where it fails to help the storytelling.

This is an average comic, that would neither convince me to keep reading it nor really advise people to avoid it. In spite of this, I have heard that the next issues are much better than the one collected in Trashed, so I am actually considering giving it another go, if for nothing else, because I really want this concept to work out.

Last but not least, I must remind anyone reading this that the Great Pacific garbage patch is quite real and should probably, by itself, be making us change how we do a lot of stuff, shouldn't it?

Friday, 6 September 2013

Quote / Citação (12)

"His intent toward the child, he would protest, had never been to dishonor but to rescue. Rescue, however, had many names, and the rope up which a maiden climbed to safety might then be used to bind her most cruelly. In that instant he had become, awkwardly, two creatures resident within the same life - one conveyed without qualification into the haunted spaces of desire, the other walled in by work-demands in which desire was never better than annoying and too often debilitating - the two selves sharing thenceforth this miserable psychic leasehold, co-conscious, each at once respectful and contemptuous of the other's imperatives."

Thomas Pynchon, Against the Day (2006)

Thursday, 5 September 2013

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

No dia em que este livro chegou às minhas mãos, o céu estava cinzento e chorava desesperadamente. A dona do livro trouxe-o junto com outro que tinha prometido emprestar-me, porque achou que eu devia ler. Ficámos os dois completamente encharcados. Ela estava mais certa do que alguma vez poderia imaginar.

Este livro conta a história de Liesel - A Rapariga que Roubava Livros (título da tradução para português) - uma criança alemã que vive perto de Munique na altura da Segunda Guerra Mundial, da Alemanhã Nazi e do Holocausto e que despertou o interesse do nosso narrador - A Morte. Através da vivência da rapariga e do olhar da Morte, o autor permite-se contar uma história que ao mesmo tempo é absolutamente credível mas que nos faz querer não acreditar nela nem um minuto. A vida extremamente difícil de Liesel e sua família vão ombreando na narração com episódios arrepiantes daquele período, desde a institucionalização do anti-semitismo associada às dificuldades económicas, à transformação dos judeus em criaturas inferiores aos seres humanos, desde a tentativa de convencer os alemães de que estavam somente a reconquistar o que era seu por direito à requisição forçada de gente para os campos de batalha. Ao mesmo tempo que seguimos a história desta rapariga que nos vai conquistando, não há como escapar de uma constante sensação de terror do que pode a qualquer momento acontecer às pessoas (não as consigo ver apenas como personagens) que já sentimos conhecer. Para além da alusão à guerra, The Book Thief toca mais de perto naquilo que afecta cada indivíduo, neste caso as consequências da dissidência política, a necessidade de manter uma aparência de total conivência com o regime, os problemas de querer ao mesmo tempo sobreviver e evitar perder aquilo que nos define como pessoa, ainda que ser quem somos seja arriscar diariamente o pescoço. A simbologia espalhada ao longo da narrativa torna a leitura uma verdadeira maravilha, desde a visão das palavras como ideias - a linguagem como libertação -, dos livros como esperanças, da escrita como salvação, das caves como factor de equilíbrio entre os judeus escondidos da Gestapo e os alemães protegidos dos bombardeamentos. Markus Zusak não entrega, no entanto, uma simples amálgama de situações dramáticas como seria certamente plausível dado o contexto da história. Há uma subtileza na forma como transmite as ideias e emoções e uma narração que intercala  os dramas com quotidiano e até com momentos de humor e doçura que eleva a complexidade de uma obra que entrou directamente para os meus livros favoritos.
Por fim, resta-me mencionar A Morte, um narrador com o qual me identifiquei desde logo, cujos comentários o autor destaca de uma forma gráfica e até cómica e que vão desde dados históricos a simples opiniões, por vezes revelando até acontecimentos futuros, muitas vezes surpreendentes seja na sua leveza seja na crueza com que acompanham a história.
Haveria, claro, muito mais a dizer sobre os eventos narrados, sobre a simbologia, sobre a escrita, mas parece-me melhor não dar mais pormenores. Espero que o que escrevi seja suficiente como recomendação para este livro, que estendo a qualquer pessoa que goste de ler.

No dia em que terminei a leitura do The Book Thief o céu estava azul, limpo com a excepção de algumas nuvens de fumo dos incêndios que circundavam Vila Real - quem chorava era eu.

"I am haunted by humans."

Obrigado Catarina.


When this book got to me, the sky was grey and tearful. The owner brought it together with another one that she had promised to lend to me, because she thought I should read it. We ended up both soaking wet. She was right, much more at that than what we both could have guessed at the time.

This book shows the story of Liesel, a German child living near Munich in Nazi Germany as the World War II and the Holocaust unfolded that was able to pique our narrator's - Death - curiosity. Through her experience and Death's "eyes" the author tells a story that at the same time is absolutely believable but also has the reader wishing it wasn't credible at all. Liesel and her family's extremely difficult life are explored in parallel with terrifying episodes of that time, such as the general installation of anti-Semitism associated with the economic problems and the transformation of Jews into lesser creatures, the attempt to convince Germans that a war was needed to get what is rightfully theirs and even the forced conscription to the army. As one follows and falls for the girl, one can't escape a constant terror of what can at any point happen to these people (I can't bring myself to think of them as just characters) that we feel we know and like. Beyond the allusion to the war, The Book Thief explores in more detail what affects each person, in this case the consequences of political dissidence, the need to appear totally supportive of the regime, the problems of wanting to survive as much as wanting to be true to oneself. The symbology interwoven through the narrative adds to the reading experience, from the association of words, writing, reading and books with ideas, hope, salvation and freedom to the use of basements to place a parallelism between Germans taking cover from air raids and Jews hiding from Gestapo. However, Markus Zusak doesn't simply deliver a mesh of dramatic events, as the context might have lead him to. He has subtlety in how he conveys ideas and emotions and he knows to intersperse drama, everyday life and even humour and sweetness giving complexity to a work of art that is already one of my favourites.
Finally, I must write about Death, a narrator with whom I immediately related and whose comments the author emphasizes graphically and comically, that go from historical data to simple opinions sometimes even spoiling future events and often surprising be it for their easiness be it for their crudity.
There would be much more to say about the events, the symbols and the writing in The Book Thief, but I don't want to give more details. I hope that what I wrote is enough a recommendation to this book, one that I send out to anyone that enjoys reading.

The day I finished reading The Book Thief the sky was blue, clear but for some smoke from forest fires around Vila Real - I was the one crying.

"I am haunted by humans."

Thank you Catarina.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Quote / Citação (11)

"Droll thing life is - that mysterious arrangement of merciless logic for a futile purpose. The most you can hope from it is some knowledge of yourself - that comes too late - a crop of unextinguishable regrets. I have wrestled with death. It is the most unexciting contest you can imagine. It takes place in an impalpable greyness, with nothing underfoot, with nothing around, without spectators, without clamour, without glory, without the great desire of victory, without the great fear of defeat, in a sickly atmosphere of tepid scepticism, without much belief in your own right, and still less in that of your adversary. If such is the form of ultimate wisdom, then life is a greater riddle than some of us think it to be."

Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness (1902)