Thursday, March 31, 2011

L3 Modal Verb Exercises_Mar

Complete with the appropriate tense/form of a modal auxiliary verb (e.g. CAN/ MAY/SHOULD/MUST/NEED etc.) and the appropriate form of the verb in parentheses.

Exercise A
I was delighted last Friday when my boss told me that I ____________________________ (work) that afternoon as we’d already done all the important business. I _____________________________ (do) any Christmas shopping before that, so I took the opportunity to go round the shops for a couple of hours, but when I got back home I realised my keys weren’t in my handbag. I remembered putting them into my bag when I left the office, so I decided they __________________________ (fall) out somehow while I was shopping. That was the only explanation. My neighbours have a spare key and although it was a bit early, I thought that if I was lucky they _____________________________ (have) dinner just then, but no-one answered the door. Luckily, another neighbour lent me a ladder, and with great difficulty, I ___________________________ (get) in through an extremely small open window upstairs.

Exercise B
One of the best places to go on a trekking holiday is the Australian outback, but I don’t think you ____________________________ (go) unless you’ve got some experience. I ____________________________ (be) about 18 when I first went there because I had already left school. Unfortunately, I got bitten by a snake. We’d been told to look out for them, so I ___________________________ (hide) in the bushes to get a better look at a kangaroo without making sure there weren’t any snakes first. I was very lucky because the guide reacted really quickly and ___________________________ (get) the poison out, but my leg was very painful and they ______________________________ (take) me to the nearest hospital where I was given several injections and that was the end of my trekking holiday.

Exercise C
A) I'm sorry I didn't go to the beach with you last weekend. If I ____________________ (work) on Saturday, I would certainly have gone. You look tanned, so the weather ______________________ (be) good.
B) Yes, much better than here. By the way, did you know that Patricia has lost her job in the clothes shop?
A) What? She ______________________ (give) the sack already! She only started working there last week!
B) Well, it seems that a lot of money went missing from the till and the owner accused her of taking it.
A) Patricia is incapable of stealing. In fact, she ______________________ (be) the most honest person I know. Perhaps another shop assistant took it or it ______________________ (even/steal) by the shop manager.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

El laicismo como ficción

CONCHA CABALLERO

Atónitos nos hemos quedado al conocer que el grupo de estudiantes que exhibieron sus torsos en la capilla de la Universidad Complutense fueron detenidas como peligrosas delincuentes. Patidifusos, cuando nos hemos enterado que se le imputan dos graves delitos contemplados en el código penal y, finalmente, indignados al saber que se acepta una querella criminal de la asociación ultraderechista Manos en Alto, perdón, Manos Limpias.
Vivimos en la ficción de pertenecer a un país laico, nos pavoneamos de nuestro avance cultural y civilizatorio pero estamos instalados en el "quiero y no puedo" de una sociedad que predica no ser confesional mientras mantiene la religión en todos sus espacios públicos e incluso reserva varios artículos en el código penal -y subrayo penal- para castigar a los que se burlen de las creencias religiosas.
El actual código penal tipifica la profanación con penas de hasta dos años de prisión y la ofensa los dogmas, creencias o ritos religiosos con penas de multa de ocho a doce meses. Un artículo, el 525, de extraña aplicación, porque como compensación contiene una segunda parte que penaliza con iguales condenas a los que hagan públicamente escarnio de quienes no profesan religión o creencia alguna.
De su aplicación se sigue que, si las jóvenes estudiantes cometieron -no una falta o una simple falta de educación- sino un delito contra las creencias religiosas, la Iglesia católica, así como los medios afines, incurren de forma habitual en este mismo delito cuando en numerosos actos públicos denuncian la homosexualidad, se manifiestan contrarios a la igualdad de derechos de las mujeres, o consideran un asesinato la interrupción voluntaria del embarazo, ya que se trata de declaraciones en las que ofenden a todas las personas que no profesan sus mismas creencias. Si los agnósticos y ateos hubiesen ido al juzgado o a la comisaría cada vez que se han visto ridiculizados, censurados e insultados por los representantes de la iglesia y sus apologetas no habría bastantes juzgados en nuestro país para tramitar las denuncias.
Nada de esto ocurriría si las creencias religiosas se situaran en el terreno de lo privado y no se pretendieran imponer, de una u otra forma, a través de las instituciones del estado. El laicismo, lejos de ser un arma contra tal o cual religión, es una garantía del respeto del estado a la conciencia individual y es la base de una convivencia respetuosa con todas las creencias. Muy mal debe ir una religión cuando sólo se puede mantener por una posición de privilegio y de confrontación.
La presencia de capillas, crucifijos y símbolos religiosos abarca todos los espacios de nuestra vida: numerosos hospitales andaluces mantienen en lugares preferentes capillas reservadas al culto católico dentro de sus instalaciones; son muchos los institutos donde falta espacio para las clases pero tienen recintos religiosos; la Diputación de Almería está presidida por un gran Cristo crucificado y, en la toma de posesión de un buen número de Ayuntamientos andaluces, junto a la Constitución española, se coloca un crucifijo testigo de la toma de posesión de los cargos públicos. Pero la presencia más chocante y contradictoria es en la Universidad donde se proclama el pensamiento científico mientras se permanece bajo la advocación de santos y vírgenes. Por si queda alguna duda de esta incompatibilidad, el arzobispo de Granada nos ha aclarado que "la ciencia es peor que la Educación para la Ciudadanía" y ha apuntado que el origen de todos los males que aquejan a la sociedad es "el culto a la razón y la Ilustración francesa". Varios siglos después de que los ilustrados proclamaran la separación de Iglesia y Estado, todavía se debate en los claustros universitarios si se suprimen las capillas, las misas o el patronazgo de quienes defienden la superstición o el misterio frente a la ciencia. ¿De verdad estamos en el siglo XXI?
El País Andalucía, 26 de marzo de 2011

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Young Saudis, Vexed and Entranced by Love’s Rules

By MICHAEL SLACKMAN
The New York Times
12 May 2008


Puede que los jóvenes de Arabia Saudí se sientan incómodos ante las exigencias cultu­rales y religiosas de la sociedad más conservadora del mundo musulmán e incluso es posible que a veces intenten eludirlas. Pero también pueden ser muy crueles en su condena hacia los que las desobedecen con demasiado descaro. Y lo que destaca en docenas de en­trevistas con hombres y mujeres jó­venes era su compromiso total con la perpetuación de las reglas. Eso da a entender que la estricta interpretación del islam que se hace en Arabia Saudí, a la que apenas se opone la nueva generación dentro del país y que se difunde en el extranjero gracias al dinero saudí, moldeará ca­da vez más la forma en que viven los musulmanes de todo el mundo. Veamos el ejemplo del joven Nader al-Mu­tairi.


She’s never met the man she’s marrying: it’s love, the Saudi way. Michael Slackman offers a rare insight into the closed world of Saudi Arabia and its bizarre and highly risky mating rituals.


Nader al-Mutairi stiffened his shoulders, clenched his fists and said: “Let’s do our mission.” Then the young man stepped into the cool, empty lobby of a dental clinic, intent on getting the phone number of one of the young women working as a receptionist.

Asking a woman for her number can cause a young man anxiety anywhere. But in Saudi Arabia getting caught with an unrelated woman can mean arrest, a possible flogging and dishonour, the worst penalty of all in a society where preserving a family’s reputation depends on faithful adherence to a strict code of separation between the sexes.

Above all, Nader feared that his cousin Enad al-Mutairi would find out he was breaking the rules. Nader is engaged to Enad’s 17-year-old sister, Sarah. “Please don’t talk to Enad about this,” he said. “He will kill me.”

The sun was already low as Nader entered the clinic. Almost instantly, his resolve faded. His shoulders drooped, his hands unclenched and his voice began to quiver. “I am not lucky today; let’s leave,” he said.

It was a flash of rebellion, almost instantly quelled. In the West, youth is typically a time to challenge authority. But what stood out in dozens of interviews with young men and women in Saudi Arabia was how completely they have accepted the religious and cultural demands of the Muslim world’s most conservative society. They chafe against the rules, even at times try to evade them, but they can be merciless in their condemnation of those who flout them too brazenly. And they are committed to perpetuating the rules with their own children.

That suggests that Saudi Arabia’s strict interpretation of Islam, largely uncontested at home by the next generation and spread abroad by Saudi money in a time of religious revival, will increasingly shape how Muslims around the world will live their faith. Young men like Nader and Enad are taught that they are the guardians of the family’s reputation, expected to shield their female relatives from shame and avoid dishonouring their families by their own behaviour. It is a classic example of how the Saudis have melded their faith with their desert tribal traditions.


“One of the most important Arab traditions is honour,” Enad said. “If my sister goes in the street and someone assaults her, she won’t be able to protect herself. The nature of men is that men are more rational. Women are not rational. With one or two or three words, a man can get what he wants from a woman. If I call someone and a girl answers, I have to apologise. It is a violation of the house.”

Enad is the alpha male, a 20-year-old police officer with an explosive temper and a fondness for teasing. Nader, 22, is soft-spoken, with a gentle smile and an inclination to follow rather than lead. They are more than cousins; they are lifelong friends and confidants. That is often the case in Saudi Arabia, where families are frequently large and insular.

They are average young Saudi men, residents of the nation’s conservative heartland, Riyadh, a flat, clean city of 5m that gleams with oil wealth. It offers young men very little in the way of entertainment, with no movie theatres and few sports facilities. If they are unmarried, they cannot even enter the malls where women shop.

Nader sank deep into a cushioned chair in a hotel cafe, sipping fresh orange juice, fiddling with his cellphone. If there is one accessory that allows a bit of self-expression for Saudi men, it is their cellphones. Nader’s is filled with pictures of pretty women taken from the internet, tight face shots of singers and actresses. His ringtone is a love song in Arabic. “I’m very romantic,” Nader said. “I don’t like action movies. I like romance. Titanic is No 1. I like Head Over Heels. Romance is love.”

Three days later, in a nearby restaurant, Nader and Enad were concentrating on eating with utensils, feeling a bit awkward since they normally eat with their right hands.

Suddenly the young men stopped focusing on their food. A woman had entered the restaurant alone. She was completely draped in a black abaya, her face covered by a black veil, her hair and ears covered by a black cloth pulled tight. “Look at the Batman,” Nader said derisively, snickering.

Enad pretended to toss his burning cigarette at the woman, who by now had been seated at a table. The glaring young men unnerved her. “She is alone, without a man,” Enad said, explaining why they were disgusted, not just with her but with her male relatives, too, wherever they were. “Thank God our women are at home,” Enad said.

Nader and Enad pray five times a day, often stopping whatever they are doing to traipse off with their cousins to the nearest mosque. Prayer is mandatory in the kingdom and the religious police force all shops to shut during prayer times. But it is also casual, as routine for Nader and Enad as taking a coffee break.

To Nader and Enad, prayer is essential. In Enad’s view, jihad is too, not the more moderate approach which emphasises doing good deeds, but the idea of picking up a weapon and fighting in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Jihad is not a crime, it is a duty,” Enad said in casual conversation. “If someone comes into your house, will you stand there or will you fight them?” He was leaning forward, his short, thick hands resting on his knees: “Arab or Muslim lands are like one house.”

The concept is such a fundamental principle, so embedded in their psyches, that they do not see any conflict between their belief in armed jihad and their work as security agents of the state. As a police officer, Enad helps to conduct raids on suspected terrorist hideouts. Nader works in the military as a communications officer.

Each earns about 4,000 riyals a month, about £500, not nearly enough to become independent from their parents. But that is not a huge concern, because fathers are expected to provide for even their grown children, to ensure that they have a place to live and the means to get married. To many parents, providing money is seen as more central to their honour than ensuring that their children get an education.

Each young man has the requisite moustache and goatee and most of the time dresses in a traditional robe. Nader prefers the white thobe, an ankle-length gown; Enad prefers beige.

But at weekends they opt for the wild and crazy guy look, often wearing running pants, tight short-sleeved shirts, bright colours, stripes and plaids together, lots of Velcro and elastic on their shoes.

There are eight other children in the house where Enad lives with his father, his mother and his father’s second wife. The apartment has little furniture, with nothing on the walls. The men and boys gather in a living room off the main hall, sitting on soiled beige wall-to-wall carpeting, watching a television propped up on a crooked cabinet. The women have a similar living room, nearly identical, behind closed doors.

The house remains a haven for Enad and his cousins, who often spend their free time sleeping, watching Oprah with subtitles on television, drinking cardamom coffee and sweet tea – and smoking.

Enad and Nader were always close, but their relationship changed when Nader and Sarah became engaged. Enad’s father agreed to let Nader marry one of his four daughters. Nader picked Sarah, although she is not the oldest, in part, he said, because he actually saw her face when she was a child and recalled that she was pretty.

They quickly signed a wedding contract, making them legally married, but by tradition they do not consider themselves so until the wedding party, set for this spring. During the intervening months they are not allowed to see each other or spend any time together.

Nader said he expected to see his new wife for the first time after their wedding ceremony – which would also be segregated by sex – when they are photographed as husband and wife.

“If you want to know what your wife looks like, look at her brother,” Nader said in defending the practice of marrying someone he had seen only once, briefly, as a child. That is the traditional Nader, who at times conflicts with the romantic Nader.

Soon his cellphone beeped, signalling a text message. Nader blushed, stuck his tongue out and turned slightly away to read the message, which came from “My Love”. He sneaks secret phone calls and messages with Sarah. When she calls, or writes a message, his phone flashes “My Love” over two interlocked red hearts. “I have a connection,” he said quietly as he read, explaining how Sarah manages to communicate with him.

His connection is Enad, who secretly slipped Sarah a cellphone that Nader had bought for her. These conversations are taboo and could cause a dispute between the two families. So their talks were clandestine, like sneaking out for a date after the parents go to bed.

Enad keeps the secret but it adds to an underlying tension between the two, as Nader tries to develop his own identity as a future head of household, as a man. Enad teases Nader, at one point saying: “In a year you will find my sister with a moustache and him in the kitchen.”

“Not true,” Nader said, mustering as much defiance as he could. “I am a man.”

Another flashpoint: the honeymoon. Nader is planning to take Sarah to Malaysia and Enad wants to go. He suggests that Nader owes him. “Yes, take me,” Enad says, with a touch of mischief in his voice.

Nader cannot seem to tell if he is kidding. “You know, he can be crazy,” Nader said. “He’s always angry. No, he is not coming. It is not a good idea.”

Nader grew up in Riyadh and his parents, like Enad’s, are first cousins. Enad says his way of thinking was forged in the village of Najkh, 350 miles west of Riyadh, where he lived until he was 14 with his grandfather. It is where he still feels most comfortable.

When he can, he has a cousin drive him to his grandfather’s home, a one-storey concrete box in the desert, four miles from the nearest house. There is a walled-in yard of sand with piles of wood used to heat the house in the cold desert winters.

Inside there is no furniture, just a few cushions on the floor and a prayer rug. Enad is quiet and hides his cigarettes when his grandfather comes through. He would never tell his father or grandfather that he smokes and remains stone-faced when a cousin mentions that another of his cousins, a woman named al-Atti, 22, is interested in him. The topic came up because another cousin, Raed, had asked al-Atti to marry him and she refused.

The conflict and flirtation touched on so many issues – manhood, love, family relations – that it sparked a flurry of whispering and even Enad was drawn in.

Al-Atti had let her sisters know that she liked Enad, but made it clear that she could never admit that publicly. So she asked a sister to spread the word from cousin to cousin and ultimately to Enad. “It’s forbidden to announce your love. It is impossible,” she said.

Word finally reached Enad, who tried to stay cool but was clearly interested and flattered. At this point Enad was himself whispering about al-Atti, trying to figure out a way to communicate with her without actually talking to her himself. He asked a female visitor to arrange a call and then pass along a message of interest.

Enad said it was never his idea to pursue her but that a man –a real man – could not reject a woman who wanted him. To get his cousin Raed out of the picture, he suggested that al-Atti’s brother take Raed to hear al-Atti’s refusal in person, at her house. “From behind a wall,” Enad said.

“Love is dangerous,” al-Atti said as she sat with her sisters in the house. “It can ruin your reputation.”

© New York Times News Service 2008

I also recommend having a look at the 13-photo album and watching the video clip of Nader and his cousin Enad on the desert on The New York Times website (click on link above). cmg

Monday, March 07, 2011

Circus Oz


Breathtaking feats, serious fun, and Australian humour for audiences of all ages...
Circus Oz was born in Melbourne, Australia in 1978. The company's 30th birthday year marked three successful decades of international touring, as well as confirming its place in the hearts of generations of Australians. From New York to Hong Kong, Circus Oz has taken its self-crafted performances of wit, grace and spectacle to 26 countries across five continents, to critical acclaim. The Circus Oz show is a rock-n-roll, animal free circus that adults and children can enjoy together. Expect two hours of breathtaking agility, death-defying stunts, awe-inspiring acrobatic performances, irreverent comedy and a spectacular live band.
Circus Oz has a strong belief in tolerance, diversity and human kindness. For many years the company has engaged in issues associated with social justice and a good time for all, including work each year with many charities, indigenous communities and the raising of nearly $250,000 in donations to support refugees and asylum seekers.
Now performing at Madrid's Teatro Circo Price until March 27.

Triumph of the City. How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier and Happier

Esplendor de las ciudades

ANTONIO MUÑOZ MOLINA, Babelia 05/03/2011

Qué invento asombroso, la ciudad. La ciudad grande, la ciudad viva, la ciudad en la que buscan y encuentran trabajo los emigrantes pobres y asilo los fugitivos, la ciudad en la que uno disfruta tan plenamente de la soledad como de la compañía, a la que sueñan con irse los sometidos al tedio y a la extenuación del trabajo campesino, los que desean aprender y ejercer oficios fantasiosos, en la que podrán escapar de la vigilancia escrutadora de sus semejantes los que mantienen oculta su diferencia; la ciudad ciudad, donde a cualquier hora del día y a veces de la noche hay gente por la calle y locales abiertos; o en la que un sistema eficiente de transporte público permite viajar hasta sus últimos confines en líneas de autobuses o en redes de metro en las que nunca falta el misterio del encuentro con los desconocidos, el del viaje por laberintos de corredores y escaleras. En Nueva York o en Madrid salgo de casa e inmediatamente me sumerjo en el gran río de la vida, que arrastra igual el esplendor que la basura, como el río Hudson arrastra y mece con idéntica magnanimidad troncos que flotan entre dos aguas con algo de caimanes, gansos circunspectos, hojas del último otoño, latas de cerveza, condones expandidos hasta tamaños improbables después de una larga estancia en las aguas. La computadora, el coche, la casa confinada en una urbanización, aíslan del mundo, o lo ofrecen con una docilidad engañosa al capricho: compras online exactamente lo que te apetecía en este momento; muestras tu preferencia por una opción política o una película o una perversión; no corres el menor peligro de encontrarte con algo o con alguien que no formaran parte de tus preferencias más específicas.

En la ciudad, nada más pisar la calle, comienza el aprendizaje de lo inesperado. La estética de la ciudad es el collage y la enumeración caótica. Salí esta mañana de domingo a comprar hortalizas, queso, leche y fruta en el mercado de los granjeros que instalan cada semana sus tenderetes a lo largo de la acera de la Universidad de Columbia y por el camino encontré por sorpresa, en diversos puestos callejeros, una hucha de porcelana policromada que es un jovial marinero de los años treinta con su petate al hombro, un disco de Lena Horne, una edición de segunda mano de las tragedias de Eurípides. Un poco más allá de los cajones donde los granjeros venden patatas o manzanas o zanahorias y nabos y remolachas que todavía huelen a tierra olorosa brilla al sol un edificio magnífico de Rafael Moneo destinado a laboratorios, chocante en este paisaje de arquitecturas sólidas y venerables y a la vez sutilmente vinculado con ellas. Casi a la puerta del club Smoke me crucé con un contrabajista que iría a tocar durante las horas del brunch. Un hombre llevaba de la mano a su hijo de siete u ocho años que aprendía a mantener el equilibrio sobre unos patines. Un emigrante mexicano tal vez ilegal atendía el puesto de flores de una frutería coreana. En un banco a la puerta de un pub irlandés unos bebedores con aire de solvente veteranía aprovechaban el sol y la calidez inesperada del aire para demorarse fumando sus cigarrillos antes de volver a la penumbra interior. El neón rosa de la Juanito's Barber Shop brillaba débilmente en la claridad del mediodía. En un breve tramo de acera se sucedían una tienda de colchones, el taller de un zapatero remendón, un concesionario de teléfonos móviles, una ferretería regentada por hoscos barbudos paquistaníes o afganos, una panadería que se llama Silver Moon y desde la que se expande por la acera un olor alimenticio de panes y bollos y cafés, una papelería en la que me apeteció de pronto comprar cuadernos y rotuladores. En menos de un kilómetro puedo atravesar las más diversas latitudes de las cocinas populares del mundo: comida india, comida china, comida japonesa, comida italiana, comida mexicana, tailandesa, comida chinoperuana exquisita y barata. En la planta de arriba del restaurante Mamá México, que los domingos acoge a grandes familias charladoras y comilonas amenizadas por mariachis, hay un centro de acupuntura, yoga y taichi.

En cualquier gran ciudad es posible una caminata equivalente, un despliegue de expectativas que no parecen tan valiosas y tan singulares como son porque ya estamos acostumbrados a ellas. La ciudad también tiene atascos de tráfico, polución, hacinamiento, pobreza, contrastes obscenos entre la marginalidad y el privilegio. Tan abundante como la literatura que retrata y celebra las ciudades es la que se dedica a denigrarlas. En la ciudad está la corrupción de cualquier inocencia, el ruido que vuelve insoportable la vida, el aislamiento, el anonimato, el delito. El júbilo indiscriminado de Walt Whitman tiene su reverso en la vindicación pastoral de Miguel Hernández, o de Fray Luis de León, o del mismo Lorca, que disfrutó en Nueva York mucho más de lo que dejó traslucir en sus poemas sobre la ciudad. La beatitud ecologista parece exigir casas aisladas en el campo, pueblos pequeños en los que el aire está más limpio y los alimentos todavía saben como tienen que saber.

Junto a los ventanales del café del nuevo edificio de Moneo miro el tráfico de la calle y el desfile plural de la gente por la acera y leo un libro que me hace más consciente de la complejidad y el valor de lo que estoy viviendo: Triumph of the City, de Edward Glaeser, un economista de Harvard que ha adquirido su erudición leyendo al parecer todo lo que se ha escrito sobre todas las ciudades y paseando por todas ellas, por Nueva York y Mumbai, por París, por Barcelona, por Kinsasha, por Detroit. Glaeser dice que la ciudad es la más importante creación humana: que fomenta la inventiva, el talento individual, la tolerancia, la prosperidad, la cooperación. Las ciudades no hacen pobre a la gente: atraen a gente pobre que quiere dejar de serlo. Las grandes ciudades son más respetuosas con el medio ambiente que las célebres arcadias ecologistas, porque la gente tiende a moverse por ellas caminando o en transportes públicos: los habitantes de Nueva York gastan como media un 40% menos de energía que los de las zonas residenciales o rurales del país. La ingeniería necesaria para suministrar agua saludable a las ciudades y retirar de ellas la basura es una proeza épica contada por Edmund Glaeser. Vivir entre la densa población de una ciudad es más seguro que hacerlo en una casa aislada en el campo. También, estadísticamente, es más saludable. Para no convertirse en boutiques monumentales en las que solo puedan habitar los ricos y los turistas las ciudades históricas necesitan renovarse con inteligencia y audacia y levantar edificios altos con una oferta de vivienda suficiente para que los precios no sean abusivos. A pesar de la pobreza y la violencia la esperanza de vida es más alta en una favela de Río de Janeiro que en los pueblos del interior del país. Leer a Edward Glaeser le da a uno el mismo ímpetu para caminar y fijarse en todo que las Hojas de hierba de Whitman o el Fervor de Buenos Aires de Borges.

Triumph of the City. How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier and Happier. Edward Glaeser. The Penguin Press, 2011. 352 páginas.