Monday, December 15, 2014

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Recommended Films in English

Here is a list of 21 memorable films I recommend for learners of English (with the names of actors and actresses whose voices you will enjoy hearing). I advise you to try and watch these films on DVD with English subtitles on first.

The Bridges of Madison County (with Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep)
American Beauty (Kevin Spacey + Annette Bening)
Love Actually (Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, etc)
Match Point (Scarlett Johansson + Johnathan Rhys Meyers)
Babel (Cate Blanchet + Brad Pitt)
Unforgiven (Clint Eastwood)
Crash (Matt Dillon)
The English Patient (Ralph Fiennes)
Dogville (Nicole Kidman)
About a Boy (Hugh Grant)
Billy Elliot (Julie Walters + Jamie Bell)
The Lord of the Rings trilogy (Vigo Mortensen, Orlando Bloom, etc)
The Godfather trilogy (Marlon Brando, Robert De Niro, etc)
Blade Runner (Harrison Ford)
The Day After Tomorrow (Dennis Quaid + Jake Gyllenhaal)
A House at the End of the World (Colin Farrel)
The Truman Show (Jim Carrey + Laura Linney)
The Talented Mr Rippley (Matt Damon + Jude Law)
Dead Poets’ Society (Robin Williams)
Good Will Hunting (Matt Damon + Robin Williams)
American History X (Edward Norton)
Little Men
Paterson

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Arguments Against Celibacy (The Tip of an Iceberg)

Suspected paedophile Granada priests acted like a sinister sect

Of the 10 priests and two laypersons who have been accused by one alleged victim, with the possibility that more witnesses may come forward, the group is said to have had a leader, specifically one of the three priests suspended from their duties on Monday in light of the court investigation.
Investigators are focusing on a parish church in the Granada district of Zaidín, where, the newspaper explains, the group leader worked and boys were allegedly drawn into the paedophiles’ sphere of influence by being taken on as altar boys or assistants.    
According to the court sources, the priests would try to brainwash these children in secret meetings, at which sexual matters were discussed and the boys encouraged to perform sexual acts with the adults, who assured them that there was no sin in such encounters. The case notes also describe how the adult members of the group also engaged in sexual activity among themselves.
The religious group, known locally as Los Romanones, a reference to the name of their alleged leader, would transport the minors to luxury flats and a house in Granada, as well as several coastal properties, to carry out their alleged crimes. So far, three priests and a teacher of religion have been arrested: Román Martínez V, Francisco José C M, Manuel M M, and Sergio Q M.
The alleged victim who has reported the offenses is today a 24-year-old teacher who has conserved his religious beliefs. According to sources who have had access to his testimony, the victim says he was abused between the ages of 13 and 17.
The victim received several telephone calls from Pope Francis, who offered his support and asked for forgiveness for these crimes in the name of the Catholic faith. The pope has encouraged Catholic authorities around the world to take stronger action against the sexual abuse of children within the Church. In this case, the alleged victim wrote to Pope Francis to report his ordeal after the Granada church hierarchy had ignored his complaints.
Pope Francis is reported to consider the suspension of only three priests as an insufficient reaction and has called the archbishop of Granada, Francisco Javier Martínez, to Rome in order to discuss the scandal. The role of the seven priests who remain in their posts is said by investigation sources to have been lesser in terms of the sex abuse, but they could be guilty of covering up the crimes and helping the three paedophiles to procure their victims.   
According to the alleged victim’s testimony, at least one other boy suffered similar abuse, while he also mentions the use of a girl by the circle, possibly as bait to draw in male victims. 

Related articles:

¡Encubrir también es delito!

Three priests arrested in Granada over pedophilia claims

Monday, November 17, 2014

British Artists and the Spanish Civil War

The bloody battle between the elected Spanish republic and a rebel group of Nationalists was one of the most important conflicts of the 20th century. The Nationalist-commanded bombing of civilians in Guernica – immortalised in Picasso's iconic work – was one of the first campaigns by Nazi Germany's Luftwaffe and reactions to it revealed the divisions between right- and left-wing groups in Europe. These ideological clashes were responsible for the outbreak of the Second World War just a few years later.

Coinciding with the 75th anniversary of the battle's end, the exhibition Conscience and Conflict: British Artists and the Spanish Civil War draws on works by Henry Moore, Edward Burra, Wyndham Lewis and Roland Penrose in order to explore how visual artists in Britain responded to events in the Mediterranean. United in the fight against fascism, artists from across disciplines and practices became engaged with the conflict; either fighting in the war themselves, providing work for fundraising campaigns or creating independent pieces that made fiercely critical statements. On display are 80 such examples from this period, including painting, printmaking, design, textiles, sculpture, photography and film. Many have not been shown in public for several decades.

The exhibition also sheds light on the role female artists played in the conflict. Paintings of refugees Ursula McCannell – now 91 – produced when she was just 13 are displayed alongside her source photographs. Meanwhile a series of drawings by artist Felicia Browne, who was the first British volunteer to die in the war, capture Republican soldiers and Spanish peasants affected by the conflict.

Thanks in large part to the Surrealist artist Roland Penrose, Picasso's Guernica travelled to the UK in 1938 and toured to venues around the country. The display explores the impact its exhibition had on the British perceptions of the war, as well as its influence on artists depicting associated subject matter.

An undoubted highlight of the show is Picasso’s Weeping Woman. The artist made several subsidiary paintings based on figures in the Guernica mural, this one – focused on the weeping woman holding her dead child – is the last and most elaborate of the series.

Pallant House Gallery9 North Pallant, Chichester West Sussex PO19 1TJ01243 774557 www.pallant.org.uk
Henry Moore, Spanish Prisoner, 1939

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Cómo escribir mejor

Por MARIO SUÁREZ

Los universitarios han adquirido hábitos de escritura en sus trabajos académicos que vienen de un mal uso de las redes sociales. El dictado tradicional podría evitarlo.


Lo decía Julio Cortázar: “La coma es la puerta giratoria del pensamiento”. Una descripción fotográfica del ilustre escritor argentino: no significa lo mismo decir “No, pase” que “No pase”. La colocación de una coma puede cambiar no solo el discurso: incluso incide en la suerte de las personas. La ortografía y la gramática no viven buenos tiempos. Los años sabios en los que la corrección a la hora de escribir era baluarte y condición indudable de un alumno universitario, han dejado paso a una cierta permisividad en la escritura, que viene provocada por un uso incorrecto de las nuevas tecnologías. Pero lo peor es que el viraje sintáctico no parece retroceder en las aulas, por el momento.

Los errores lingüísticos en la escritura entre los jóvenes universitarios se dan en todos los aspectos. Faltas de ortografía, discordancias, mal uso de pronombres y tiempos verbales, ausencia de referencias bibliográficas, poca coherencia en el discurso… Los exámenes, los trabajos y las memorias de fin de curso resultan ser carreras con demasiados baches para profesores y académicos.

Pero no es cuestión de buscar culpables –en este caso, del uso de las nuevas tecnologías– sino de convencer del uso correcto de ellas. “Lo fundamental es que todo hablante sea capaz de cambiar de registro; si alguien está escribiendo un mensaje con el móvil y utiliza ciertos sistemas de abreviación por economía de medios, no es algo reprobable, pues las abreviaciones han existido siempre. El problema surge cuando no se es capaz de cambiar de registro ni de redactar un texto en un examen y se utiliza también ese sistema de abreviación, sin tener en cuenta las reglas ortográficas”, afirma Francisco Gallego, catedrático de Lengua y Literatura de Educación Secundaria en Valladolid. Y añade: “La dificultad radica en la escasa formación en lengua que existe actualmente. No hay un déficit solo para redactar, también lo hay de comprensión”.

Y así, la escritura a mano se presenta como una de las vías para corregir esos errores y aumentar la formación en lingüística. “Hay una sintaxis muy simple en los jóvenes. Tienden siempre a estructuras y oraciones yuxtapuestas y son incapaces de utilizar unas estructuras subordinadas con concatenación de oraciones, uniendo unas ideas con otras. Esto es muy habitual y refleja un pensamiento muy simple”, remata Gallego.

El informe Samsung Galaxy Note 4 sobre hábitos de escritura en España ha preguntado a los jóvenes sobre “cuáles son los principales beneficios de la escritura a mano”. Un 65 % contestó que si lo hacía era por “no perder el conocimiento de las reglas de ortografía” y un 60 %, para “no perder en la calidad de la redacción”. La intención es clara: se quiere escribir a mano, pero no se hace bien del todo.

Las redes sociales y su uso nos han convertido a todos en pequeños escritores y editores de nuestra propia vida y de nuestras ideas. Este lenguaje, muchas veces limitado por los propios caracteres y los teclados de nuestros dispositivos, también ha llegado a afectar a la comunicación escrita en el lenguaje académico. Laura Llanos y Milka Villayandre, del departamento de Filología Hispánica y Clásica de la Universidad de León, llevaron a cabo un estudio sobre las faltas de ortografía y de redacción en los trabajos académicos de alumnos universitarios para el proyecto proyecto CORPES XXI de la Real Academia Española.

Analizando los escritos a mano de los alumnos, llegaron a la conclusión de que sus problemas de redacción se debían a la falta de revisión de los trabajos. “Era la inmediatez lo que provocaba los errores, una rapidez que viene provocada por el uso habitual que tienen de las redes sociales”, afirman. Es decir, la espontaneidad y el uso constante de nuestras redes sociales impiden que se revisen los textos con esmero, pese a conocer quizá las reglas ortográficas y gramaticales. “Vimos que el uso que hacían de las redes sociales lo trasladaban a sus escritos académicos, incluso usaban las mismas abreviaturas. Pero es todo por falta de atención. Incluso una alumna repetía la misma palabra tres veces en una frase, y era porque no lo había revisado, no porque desconociera otros sinónimos para hacer más rico su texto”, comentan.

Pero el estudio, según sus creadores, también obtenía aspectos positivos en las conclusiones. “Las redes sociales hacen que escribamos más, todos somos editores en nuestras redes. Pero escribimos de una manera más inmediata, no es un uso lingüístico muy reflexivo. Falta adecuación lingüística, se escribe igual a un profesor que a un amigo, hay falta de diferenciación de géneros discursivos”, aseguran. Ya no es una cuestión únicamente formal; existe un problema de adecuación al entorno en el que se escribe, según estos estudios.

Una reciente investigación de la Universidad de Alberta, en Canadá, sobre la influencia de las nuevas tecnologías en las redes sociales, confirmaba por su parte que los mensajes instantáneos no tenían consecuencias destacables en la ortografía de los jóvenes. Los alumnos con buena ortografía en el aula también la dejaban ver en las redes sociales. En el uso por sexos de las redes sociales, los hombres tenían peor ortografía en las redes sociales y los chats que las mujeres, más dadas a usar abreviaturas.

Para los expertos el asunto es “preocupante”. Así lo define Ignacio Bosque, miembro de la Real Academia Española y catedrático honorario de Lengua Española de la Universidad Complutense de Madrid. El profesor admite que existe “un déficit muy grande en la capacidad de escribir en las universidades, pero esto no es culpa de las nuevas tecnologías, es que se lee muy poco. Únicamente se escriben y se leen textos muy breves por Internet”.

Esto provoca una falta de conocimiento del léxico y la sintaxis muy grave. Un problema que hace 20 años no existía. “El lenguaje de las redes sociales es algo circunstancial, no importan los errores de sintaxis, pues es muy parecido al lenguaje oral. En el lenguaje de los móviles importa poco la corrección gramatical, aquí lo importante es transmitir la idea. Pero lo preocupante es verlo en un examen o en un trabajo universitario, donde te encuentras incluso con abreviaturas que usan en sus mensajes de móvil”, confirma Bosque.


Para Bosque existen varias soluciones, que pasan, sobre todo, por escribir a mano: “Yo hice muchos dictados de joven, centenares, y ahora apenas se hacen; los dictados son recursos didácticos que ayudan a escribir mejor. Escribir a mano es cada vez más difícil, pero quien recibe una nota manuscrita lo agradece sinceramente; es algo más habitual de poetas, ¡ojalá los textos fueran todos escritos a mano!”. Goya lo pintó en su cuadro La letra con sangre entra. Hoy sabemos que con nuevas tecnologías el valor didáctico sería mucho mayor.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

La mirada de fuera

ANTONIO MUÑOZ MOLINA
Nadie presta más atención a las cosas que un recién llegado, nadie se fija tanto como el forastero con ganas de descubrir y saber, porque él no da nada por supuesto, a diferencia de los naturales o de los habituados, y cada tarea que para los demás es rutinaria para él constituye una peripecia, poblada de sorpresas, de incertidumbres y hasta de peligros. El recién llegado, el extranjero de ojos abiertos y buena voluntad, disfruta de cada hallazgo mínimo como de un tesoro, de una palabra nueva que aprende igual que de las habilidades necesarias para viajar en autobús, y vive tan volcado hacia fuera, tan ensimismado en sus aventuras y descubrimientos, que no tiene tiempo ni ganas de ensimismarse en los hábitos consabidos de su propia conciencia, y le parece que no es del todo quien era antes de llegar.
Hay, desde luego, quien no se entera de nada, quien se mantiene coriáceamente recluido en su identidad, y sólo responde a lo nuevo con un instinto de rechazo, o ni siquiera eso, sin mirar a su alrededor. Pero igual que existe la xenofobia, que es uno de los mayores venenos de la historia humana, existe, por fortuna, la xenofilia. Palabra que no sé si está en el diccionario, pero que sería urgente incluir: el gusto por conocer y disfrutar lo que no se nos parece, por viajar con la lentitud necesaria a otros países, a otros climas y a otros idiomas, por no dejar que le crezca a uno ese caparazón de crustáceo mental de quien sólo sabe amar lo que considera suyo, lo que cree que le corresponde por privilegio de su nacimiento.
Con frecuencia de quien más se puede aprender sobre el propio país es de un visitante extranjero, de un visitante cultivado y asiduo que carece de las anteojeras y las rigideces del nativo y también de los apresurados lugares comunes del turista. Decía Borges que el patriotismo es la menos perspicaz de las pasiones: una de las más perspicaces, sin embargo, es la pasión del forastero por la ciudad o el país donde no ha nacido, pero donde lo ha llevado un sistema de instituciones y afinidades electivas que se parecen al de la amistad y el amor. Hay países en los que esa mirada de fuera es más necesaria que en otros: en España yo creo que es imprescindible, en parte por nuestra tendencia a la cerrazón, en parte por nuestra desidia.
Es probable que la Alhambra no se hubiera salvado de la absoluta ruina en el siglo XIX de no ser por el empeño de viajeros como el norteamericano Washington Irving o el inglés Richard Ford, que cuando llegó a ella por primera vez vio que no era más que una fortaleza devastada en la que había un polvorín con un pararrayos y un gobernador tuerto, cojo y beodo que rompía los frascos vacíos de vino contra las paredes de azulejos. Por mediación del cónsul británico en Sevilla, Ford logró que al menos el pararrayos no estuviera justo encima de la torre que albergaba el polvorín. La memoria española ha quedado con mucha frecuencia tan en ruinas como los mejores monumentos españoles, y también ha sido preciso, para restablecerla o salvarla, la pasión perspicaz y la generosa xenofilia de los viajeros de otros países.
No hablo de los embusteros, de los inventores o propagadores de lugar común más caricaturesco y despectivo, que van de Théophile Gautier a Ernest Hemingway. Me refiero a otros, de mirada más atenta e inteligencia más serena, sobre todo a unos cuantos historiadores, alguno de los cuales está apareciendo en los periódicos de estos días. A John Elliott le acaban de dar el Premio Príncipe de Asturias, y Henry Kamen, cuya historia espléndida de la Inquisición leímos todos en aquel tomo inolvidable de Alianza, anuncia la próxima publicación de su biografía de Felipe II. Pero yo pienso también en Gerald Brenan, que quiso que lo trajeran de Inglaterra para morirse en Alhaurín el Grande, en Gabriel Jackson, que escribe con la misma claridad y perspicacia sobre nuestras guerras pasadas y nuestras confusiones y parodias del presente, en Ronald Frazer, a quien debemos una espléndida historia oral de la guerra civil, en Ian Gibson, que en los años sesenta fue el último o el penúltimo viajero romántico por Andalucía, y ha exhumado y restablecido para siempre la biografía de Federico García Lorca, el relato terrible de los últimos días y las últimas horas de su vida.
Hay mucho más, en general disperso por las universidades de Europa y América, viajeros eficaces que vienen a investigar en la soledad de los archivos, a disfrutar de la vida y de la luz de las calles, del idioma español, de las comidas y de las conversaciones españolas. Con alguna frecuencia ellos hacen lo que nosotros no sabemos hacer, por la ceguera de quien está demasiado cerca de las cosas, por la aturdida negligencia y la charlatanería que nos van contagiando los energúmenos de la baja política. A Paul Preston le debemos sin duda la mejor biografía del general Franco. De pocos libros de ficción he disfrutado yo tanto como de los volúmenes de La España de los Austrias, de John Elliott, o de su biografía del conde-duque de Olivares, que es a la vez el retrato de un tiempo y de un carácter y un manual absorbente sobre la psicología de la ambición política. Sin Johnathan Brown sabríamos mucho menos sobre la vida y la pintura de Velázquez. Sin Juan Marichal, que es español pero ha conocido la distancia del exilio y cultivado en él la disciplina anglosajona de la investigación histórica, la tradición progresista y liberal española sería aún más desconocida de lo que ya es. Ahora que la historia de España desaparece de los planes de estudio, o es sustituida por mitologías y tebeos al gusto de cada sátrapa comarcal, miradas extranjeras y fieles como las de Elliott, Kamen o Brown se nos vuelven más necesarias que nunca para saber quiénes somos. Hay que estudiar historia, dice Elliott, porque la ignorancia lleva al recelo y al odio. Hay que estudiar historia y hay que volverse un poco extranjero. (El País, 20.11.96)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Diez minutos_cortometraje


"Diez minutos", de Alberto Ruiz Rojo, con más de 85 premios en festivales nacionales e internacionales, incluido el Goya al Mejor Cortometraje de Ficción en 2005, es el corto más premiado de la historia del cine en España.

Sinopsis
"Diez minutos" cuenta la historia de una persona que llama al servicio de atención al cliente de su teléfono móvil para solicitar una información, de ello depende que pueda recuperar a su chica. Pero se encuentra con la inflexibilidad e impersonalidad de la operadora que sistemáticamente se niega a ayudarle. El corto es un toque de atención del modelo de sociedad al que nos dirigimos, donde la frialdad de normas absurdas se impone a la humanidad y el sentido común.

Notas del director
"La clave del éxito del corto está en la identificación tan absoluta del espectador con la historia, (todo el mundo me dice que le ha pasado) y en el acierto de haber creado una historia universal que no pertenece a ningún lugar especifico ni habla de una edad o gente determinada".

"Al final responde al argumento clásico del hombre contra el sistema, como miles de historias. Lo importante es haber conseguido estructurarlo de tal forma que el espectador se enganche y se mantenga con ganas de saber cómo acaba todo esto al final".

"Creo que otro gran valor del corto es el maravilloso trabajo que han hecho los actores Gustavo Salmerón y Eva Marciel. Este es un corto sin explosiones, donde lo único que hay es lo que dos personas, cada uno en un lugar, se dicen por teléfono. Desde luego era muy arriesgado hacer un corto bajo esta premisa".

"Personalmente lo que más me gusta del corto es como juega con la paradoja de la comunicación. Justo cuando la operadora calla es cuando comienzan a comunicarse. Al final, la única forma de entenderse es con el silencio".

"Diez minutos es una crítica al tipo de sociedad hacia donde nos dirigimos. Un mundo donde se supone prima la comunicación y el entendimiento y que, sin embargo, levanta continuas barreras invisibles de incomunicación que nos impiden el contacto directo con las personas".

"En la historia que presentamos, nuestro protagonista lucha desesperadamente por hacer valer el sentido común, la flexibilidad, el entendimiento, la humanidad... Pero la frialdad y rigidez de normas absurdas se antepone al más mínimo brote de comprensión".

"La historia del mundo de la atención telefónica, donde habitualmente tenemos que hablar con ordenadores o, lo que es aún mucho peor, personas que han sido enseñadas a hablar, razonar y comportarse como ordenadores, no es más que una muestra de las dos caras de este progreso".

"A la vez que la vida se nos hace más cómoda y accesible, gracias al teléfono, internet, etc., también perdemos el contacto directo con las personas. ¿Quién no echa de menos, de vez en cuando, a ese viejo tendero que nos escuchaba, que entendía de lo que hablaba, que estaba dispuesto a ser flexible?".

"En muchos casos, (como curiosamente ocurre en las empresas de telefonía y comunicación) ya no existe un sitio físico donde uno pueda ir a reclamar sus derechos o sus demandas. Esto evita multitud de problemas a las empresas, les ayuda a evadir miles de responsabilidades, haciendo desesperar o desistir al pobre consumidor, que se vuelve loco, en un laberinto de contestadores, menús, teleoperadores y llamadas cortadas. ¿Qué pasará cuando esto se trasplante a las instituciones?".

"Después de todo, nuestra historia deja abierta una puerta a la esperanza. Por encima de todas las normas aprendidas, por encima de las amenazas de despido si se quebrantan, por encima de todo, está nuestra verdad y todos tenemos un lado humano, que puede aparecer, aunque a veces parezca imposible. Al menos eso quiero creer yo".

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

The Intellectual Battle Against the Islamic State



DUBAI – The global financial crisis taught the world how profoundly interdependent our economies have become. In today’s crisis of extremism, we must recognize that we are just as interdependent for our security, as is clear in the current struggle to defeat ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria), also known as the Islamic State.


If we are to prevent ISIS from teaching us this lesson the hard way, we must acknowledge that we cannot extinguish the fires of fanaticism by force alone. The world must unite behind a holistic drive to discredit the ideology that gives extremists their power, and to restore hope and dignity to those whom they would recruit.


ISIS certainly can – and will – be defeated militarily by the international coalition that is now assembling and which the UAE is actively supporting. But military containment is only a partial solution. Lasting peace requires three other ingredients: winning the battle of ideas; upgrading weak governance; and supporting grassroots human development.
Such a solution must begin with concerted international political will. Not a single politician in North America, Europe, Africa, or Asia can afford to ignore events in the Middle East. A globalized threat requires a globalized response. Everyone will feel the heat, because such flames know no borders; indeed, ISIS has recruited members of at least 80 nationalities.

ISIS is a barbaric and brutal organization. It represents neither Islam nor humanity’s most basic values. Nonetheless, it has emerged, spread, and resisted those who oppose it. What we are fighting is not just a terrorist organization, but the embodiment of a malicious ideology that must be defeated intellectually.

I consider this ideology to be the greatest danger that the world will face in the next decade. Its seeds are growing in Europe, the United States, Asia, and elsewhere. With its twisted religious overtones, this pre-packaged franchise of hate is available for any terrorist group to adopt. It carries the power to mobilize thousands of desperate, vindictive, or angry young people and use them to strike at the foundations of civilization.

The ideology fueling ISIS has much in common with that of Al Qaeda and its affiliates in Nigeria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen, North Africa, and the Arabian Peninsula. What most worries me is that a decade ago, such an ideology was all that Al Qaeda needed to destabilize the world, even from a primitive base in the caves of Afghanistan. Today, under ISIS, adherents have access to technology, finance, a huge land base, and an international jihadist network. Far from being defeated, their ideology of rage and hate has become stricter, more pernicious, and more widespread.
The destruction of terrorist groups is not enough to bring lasting peace. We must also strike at the root to deprive their dangerous ideology of the power to rise again among people left vulnerable by an environment of hopelessness and desperation. And, on this note, let us be positive.

The solution has three components. The first is to counter malignant ideas with enlightened thinking, open minds, and an attitude of tolerance and acceptance. This approach arises from our Islamic religion, which calls for peace, honors life, values dignity, promotes human development, and directs us to do good to others.

Only one thing can stop a suicidal youth who is ready to die for ISIS: a stronger ideology that guides him onto the right path and convinces him that God created us to improve our world, not to destroy it. We can look to our neighbors in Saudi Arabia for their great successes in de-radicalizing many young people through counseling centers and programs. In this battle of minds, it is thinkers and scientists of spiritual and intellectual stature among Muslims who are best placed to lead the charge.

The second component is support for governments’ efforts to create stable institutions that can deliver real services to their people. It should be clear to everyone that the rapid growth of ISIS was fueled by the Syrian and Iraqi governments’ failings: the former made war on its own people, and the latter promoted sectarian division. When governments fail to address instability, legitimate grievances, and persistent serious challenges, they create an ideal environment for hateful ideologies to incubate – and for terrorist organizations to fill the vacuum of legitimacy.

The final component is to address urgently the black holes in human development that afflict many areas of the Middle East. This is not only an Arab responsibility, but also an international responsibility, because providing grassroots opportunity and a better quality of life for the people of this region is guaranteed to ameliorate our shared problems of instability and conflict. We have a critical need for long-term projects and initiatives to eliminate poverty, improve education and health, build infrastructure, and create economic opportunities. Sustainable development is the most sustainable answer to terrorism.

Our region is home to more than 200 million young people. We have the opportunity to inspire them with hope and to direct their energies toward improving their lives and the lives of those around them. If we fail, we will abandon them to emptiness, unemployment, and the malicious ideologies of terrorism.

Every day that we take a step toward delivering economic development, creating jobs, and raising standards of living, we undermine the ideologies of fear and hate that feed on hopelessness. We starve terrorist organizations of their reason to exist.

I am optimistic, because I know that the people of the Middle East possess a power of hope and a desire for stability and prosperity that are stronger and more enduring than opportunistic and destructive ideas. There is no power stronger than that of hope for a better life.
Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum is Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai.

Monday, October 06, 2014

A2 Pronouncing Names, Learning Sounds

What's your favourite pop band?
GREEN DAY /i:/
THE CORRS /ko:rz/
U2 /ju: tu:/
THE CRANBERRIES /'krænberis/
GUNS N' ROSES /'rousez/
COLDPLAY /ou ei/
ROLLING STONES /stəunz/
THE WHO /hu:/
THE BEATLES /i:/
RED HOT CHILLI PEPPERS /'pepəz/
BOB MARLEY /'ma:rlei/
FRANZ FERDINAND
R.E.M.
POLICE /pə'li:s/
BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN & THE E STREET BAND
What pop band is this? Can you guess?


What are these abbreviations? Match them with the definitions below.

BBC
MSN
www

EU
FAQ
CIA
AC/DC
M&S
UN
MIT
B&B
an international organisation__a technological institute__a heavy metal band__the European project__internet__a network of spies__an American computer company__a television channel__a series of questions__a British department store__a cheap form of accommodation

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Occupy Central

Thousands of young people have taken to the streets in Hong Kong to fight for democracy and civil rights.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Young Spaniards turn to ‘big bottle’ binge drinking

Binge drinking among Spanish teens is on the rise. In a troubled society, 
 traditions make it easy to look the other way.

By Cristina Mateo-Yanguas
GlobalPost, October 12, 2009

MADRID, Spain — Friday night in a Madrid square. Dozens of adolescents hanging out. Two-liter soda bottles strewn at their feet, along with colorful gin and rum bottles. Teens mix their own drinks for hours, to the indifference of passersby. While Spaniards are known for their social drinking, even during their teens, this scene of excess is a relatively new one. Spanish adolescents have taken to binge drinkingA recent Ministry of Health survey revealed that while one in four teenagers drank to get drunk 10 years ago, a full 50 percent of them do so now.

“Unfortunately, Spanish teens have copied the Anglo-Saxon model. In our Mediterranean culture, we usually consume fermented drinks such as wine and beer with less alcohol than distilled spirits, and we drink with our meals,” said José Luis Sancho, a psychologist and coordinator of minors in Madrid for Proyecto Hombre, an NGO that helps people with addictions.
Botellón,” literally “big bottle” in Spanish, is the local lingo for the BYOB (bring your own booze) phenomenon of young people meeting in outdoor public places with the purpose of consuming alcohol. Some gatherings consist of small groups of friends. Others are massive, attended by the thousands thanks to texting or social networks like Facebook. While these "macrobotellones" are organized by college students, high schoolers participate too.
Moderate consumption has always been socially acceptable in Spain. Only a generation ago, grade-school kids were introduced to alcohol at home — they were served shandy beer by their parents at meals or a drop of sparkling wine over the Christmas holidays.

“We coexisted with alcohol, there was a wine bottle at the table every day. But that table was a table of dialogue. The whole family sat down together for meals, and the education process continued at the table,” explained Myriam Fernández Nevado, a sociologist. Back then, there was always mom or grandma waiting for kids when they got out of school. In contrast, teens today spend a lot of time alone — they're referred to as the "keychain generation," or what are commonly known in the West as "latchkey kids."

Don’t blame it on women joining the workforce, argued Fernández. In rural areas, women always worked outside their home, she said, but an extended family took care of the children. New family structures and long working hours are changing the way kids are brought up. “Parents feel guilty, and they want to avoid conflict during the little time they spend with their children,” offered Sancho.

What’s more, the customary alcohol consumption of Spaniards primes parents for a permissive attitude. "Alcohol consumption is part of our culture, people drink at home, everybody drinks," explained doctor Juan José Rodriguez Sendín, president of the Spanish Organization of Physicians.

Josep Lluis Matali, a psychologist from the Unity of Addictive Conducts in Adolescents at Hospital Sant Joan de Deu in Barcelona, agrees. A parent or tutor has to pick up teenagers treated for alcohol intoxication before they can be released from the hospital. Their reaction? "Parents minimize, 'banalize' or 'normalize' their kids' alcohol consumption," Matali said. "Many parents see it as a rite of passage to adulthood," he added.

"All my friends drink, so I drink too," said 17-year-old A. whose name cannot be published because she is a minor. She was hanging out in Moncloa, a Madrid neighborhood favored by teenagers, on Saturday night. She explained she drinks vodka, and it's her 19-year-old friend, Francisco Mased, who buys it for her. When asked whether her parents knew she drank, A. said, "I think they know, but I don't go home drunk, so it's OK, they don't say anything. They were also my age once."

Mased said he used to drink every weekend, even weekdays, but now he took up soccer, and he drinks a lot less. When asked why he does botellón, his answer was similar to A.'s: "Because everybody drinks."

The binge-drinking trend is more than just a cultural overhaul. Rodriguez Sendín warns society could be losing future brain power to alcohol. “The brain is maturing until a person turns 20. Alcohol is a harmful toxic that interferes with brain development. The brain capacity of teens who drink a lot will be much more limited when they are adults than it would have been otherwise,” he said.

Alcohol affects multiple organs in the body including the heart, digestive system and kidneys, explained Rodríguez. Alcohol abuse is also linked to risky sexual behavior and traffic accidents. “It’s the major cause of avoidable death,” he concluded. Surprisingly, there aren't readily available figures to back up Rodríguez's claims. Very few studies have been done on a national level, partly because it's hard to get reliable data.

Awareness sessions for teens who already get drunk on occasion are effective in raising their consciousness about the consequences of binge drinking, Matali said. “We tell them, ‘You have to learn to drink’ and ‘Don’t go out with the intention of getting drunk,'” he explained. For those who show signs of alcohol dependency, Matali said he recommends abstinence. The earlier a person starts consuming alcohol habitually, the higher their chances of becoming an alcoholic, Rodríguez alerted.
The Ministry of Health survey found on average that teens start drinking at 13-and-a-half years of age, and six out of 10 adolescents regularly drink. Almost one in four (23 percent) consumes alcohol every weekend.

Legislation prohibits alcohol sale in Spain to youths under 18. But more than 90 percent of high school-aged kids in the Ministry’s survey reported having easy access to alcohol. Shops still sell alcohol to teens, or older friends buy for the younger ones. A 2007 bill to toughen accessibility and ban advertising did not pass due to pressures by Spain’s alcohol sector, particularly the wine industry.

The physicians’ organization claims that law is essential, and Sancho asserts social action must accompany legislation. Parents and schools have to reassume their education responsibilities. Effective measures to shorten long work schedules are indispensable for work and family life reconciliation.
In the meantime, teenagers are increasingly gathering in Spanish plazas and parks to tie one on. So much for a country where people used to boast about never having gotten drunk.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Photo For Thought

People, mostly males, queueing up at Central London's Apple store to buy the latest iPhone 6 model. Food for thought. Photo: KIRSTY WIGGESWORTH, Associated Press

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Stonehenge's Hidden Landscape



WILTSHIRE, ENGLAND—Information gathered with high-tech equipment during a four-year project to survey the area around Stonehenge has been converted into a new digital map. Among the discoveries are two massive pits that are older than Stonehenge and appear to form astronomical alignments on midsummer’s day. Stonehenge was eventually built upon the intersection point of the eastern pit’s alignment with the rising sun and the western pit’s alignment at sunset. Also predating Stonehenge was a burial mound containing a massive wooden building. Wolfgang Neuber of the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute thinks it was used in burial rituals until it was later covered in chalk. Another huge henge known as Durrington Walls was found to the northeast. Its 70 massive stones or posts had been pushed over or laid flat. “This radically changes our view of Stonehenge. In the past we had this idea that Stonehenge was standing in splendid isolation, but it wasn’t… it’s absolutely huge,” Vince Gaffney, head of the Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project at Birmingham University, told The Guardian

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Harto


One of my brightest students published this video on his Twitter. I couldn't have said it more strongly!

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

The Storytelling Animal

Humans live in landscapes of make-believe. We spin fantasies. We devour novels, films, and plays. Even sporting events and criminal trials unfold as narratives. Yet the world of story has long remained an undiscovered and unmapped country. It’s easy to say that humans are “wired” for story, but why?
Drawing on the latest research in neuroscience, psychology, and evolutionary biology, Gottschall tells us what it means to be a storytelling animal. Did you know that the more absorbed you are in a story, the more it changes your behavior? That all children act out the same kinds of stories, whether they grow up in a slum or a suburb? That people who read more fiction are more empathetic?
Of course, our story instinct has a darker side. It makes us vulnerable to conspiracy theories, advertisements, and narratives about ourselves that are more “truthy” than true. National myths can also be terribly dangerous: Hitler’s ambitions were partly fueled by a story.
In this delightful and original book, Jonathan Gottschall offers the first unified theory of storytelling. He argues that stories help us navigate life’s complex social problems—just as flight simulators prepare pilots for difficult situations. storytelling has evolved, like other behaviors, to ensure our survival.
But as Gottschall shows in this remarkable book, stories can also change the world for the better. Most successful stories are moral—they teach us how to live, whether explicitly or implicitly, and bind us together around common values. We know we are master shapers of story. The Storytelling Animal finally reveals how stories shape us.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

The pleasure of reading (and laughing)

I’ve just finished reading one of the funniest books I’ve ever read, and can’t but recommend it to you. The Hundred-year-old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared, by Swedish author Jonas Jonasson, is a first-rate, laugh-out-loud novel (with a touch of the Marx Brothers). This modern picaresque story, written with a charming simplicity, will have you in stitches from page one; forget about the film version altogether! The English translation reads quite well. Enjoy it. Happy summer. cmg

Thursday, June 19, 2014

E-mail Etiquette

When we converse, we expect other people to observe certain rules of behaviour. The same is true for e-mail, the most popular form of online communication. Here are a few pointers to help you communicate more effectively.

Clearly summarize your message in the subject line.

Properly titled messages help people organize and prioritize their e-mail.

Don't use the CC (Carbon Copy) function to copy your message to everyone.

This is particularly true at work. These days everyone receives too much e-mail. Unnecessary messages are annoying. If only a few people really need to receive your message, only direct it to them.
Similarly, when responding an e-mail, do not respond to all recipients. By choosing Reply to All or a similar button when responding to a message, you may end up broadcasting your response to your entire company.

Use BCCs (Blind Carbon Copies) when addressing a message that will go to a large group of people who don't necessarily know each other.

Just as it's not polite to give out a person's telephone number without his or her knowledge, it's not polite to broadcast everyone's e-mail address. For instance, when you send a message to 30 people and use the To: or CC: fields to address the message, all 30 people see each other's address. By using BCC:, each recipient sees only two--theirs and yours.

Keep your messages short and focused. 

Few people enjoy reading on their computer screens; fewer still on the tiny screens in cell phones, PDAs and other mobile devices that are becoming increasingly popular. Recipients tend to ignore long messages.

Avoid using all capital letters. 

IT MAKES IT LOOK LIKE YOU'RE SHOUTING! IT'S ALSO MORE DIFFICULT TO READ.

Don't write anything you wouldn't say in public.

Anyone can easily forward your message, even accidentally. This could leave you in an embarrassing position if you divulged personal or confidential information. If you don't want to potentially share something you write, consider using the telephone.

Use a smiley to make sure that a statement is not misunderstood. 

Smileys are typically used in personal e-mail and are not considered appropriate for business. They should rarely be used in the office. If your message needs a smiley for better understanding, most likely you should not be delivering it via e-mail. Even with a smiley, someone may misunderstand you.

Avoid sending e-mail to large numbers of people unless you have a serious reason to do it. 

E-mail broadcast to many recipients may be considered spam.

Nasty e-mail should also be avoided.

These messages have their own term: flame. Flame e-mail is an insulting message designed to cause pain, as when someone "gets burned."

As a courtesy to your recipient, include your name at the bottom of the message.

The message contains your e-mail address (in the header), but the recipient may not know that the return address belongs to you, especially if it's different from your real name.

From: Learn the Net (www.learnthenet.com) is Copyright 1996-2008. Michael Lerner Productions. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Train your English with Audio Books

Hasta 20 grandes maestros de la literatura se pueden leer y escuchar en la colección bilingüe y con audiolibro en inglés que EL PAÍS ofrece este verano a sus lectores cada domingo a 4,95 euros. The Canterville Ghost (1887) de Oscar Wilde será el primer relato de la serie, que saldrá al precio de un euro el próximo domingo 22 de junio. El relato del maestro de The Picture of Dorian Gray arranca en la campiña inglesa, con la gótica mansión Canterville como escenario. Con sentido del humor, Wilde enfrenta al pobre espectro de Simon Canterville a la convivencia con una familia norteamericana, los Otis. Aunque Simon lo intentará de mil maneras distintas, los prosaicos usurpadores de su morada serán invulnerables al miedo y al fantasma irá perdiendo su dignidad y sus ganas de asustar.
Tanto a Wilde, como a Virginia Woolf o a Dickens, se lo podrá leer (y escuchar) en inglés. Cada relato enfrenta página a página la traducción con su original: a la derecha en castellano y a la izquierda en inglés. Y también habrá un glosario para recordar que accursed es maldito, tangle, maraña o que el océano mueve su piel en sea-tides, mareas. Todas estas palabras se encuentran en negrita en el texto en inglés. Además del glosario de la A a la Z, cada relato contará con una breve colección de frases hechas que se encuentren en el cuento en cuestión.
Las breves biografías de expertos como Miquel Berga, profesor de literatura inglesa de la Universidad Pompeu Fabra de Barcelona, las traducciones de Álvaro Abella o Laura Salas, los glosarios y los cedés con la versión en audio en inglés en el fondo son solo guindas. El verdadero placer es dejarse llevar, en castellano o en inglés, por las palabras de los genios. Por ejemplo, por el sonoro y suntuoso arranque de The Colour Out of Space (H.P. Lovecraft, 1927): "West of Arkham the hills rise wild, and there are valleys with deep woods that no axe has ever cut. There are dark narrow glens where the trees slope fantastically, and where thin brooklets trickle without ever having caught the glint of sunlight".

Saturday, June 14, 2014

L3 Reading Comprehension Exercise

Buy Things that Last
Everyone loves a bargain, as long as we believe it’s in good taste. And nobody does low-price, high-style better than IKEA, the world’s largest furniture retailer. IKEA passes as the anti-Wal-Mart: a company where value and good values coexist. It uses design to make up for its lack of quality, and its brand—represented by all those smiling, white-teethed Scandinavians standing next to smooth, shiny modular furniture with unpronounceable names—as a passport to a guilt-free world of low prices. But put down your 59-cent Färgrik coffee mug and ask yourself: Can we really afford to shop at a place where an item’s price reflects only a fraction of its true cost?
IKEA challenges its talented European team to create ever-cheaper objects, and pressures its suppliers—most of them in low-wage countries in Asia and eastern Europe—to get the lowest possible price. By some measures the world’s third-largest wood consumer, IKEA proudly employs 15 “forestry monitors.” Eight of them work in China and Russia, but illegal logging is widespread in those countries, making it impossible to guarantee that wood is obtained legally. (The company refuses to pay a premium to ensure its wood is legal, saying that costs would be passed along to consumers.) IKEA furniture made of particleboard[1] is not meant to last a lifetime; indeed, some professional movers decline to guarantee its safe transport. But to be fair, creating heirlooms[2] is not IKEA’s goal. Nor, despite a lot of talk to the contrary, is energy conservation: the company boasts[3] of illuminating its stores with low-wattage lightbulbs but positions its outlets far from city centers, where taxes are low and commuting costs are high. The average IKEA customer drives 50 miles round-trip. Cleverly, IKEA transfers transport and energy costs onto consumers, who are then handed the additional inconvenience of assembling their purchases. Designed but not crafted, IKEA bookcases and chairs—like most cheap objects—resist emotional involvement and are often treated as disposable. When they break or malfunction, we tend not to fix them; rather, we throw them out and buy new ones. Wig Zamore, a Massachusetts environmental activist who was recently recognized for his work by the Environmental Protection Agency, is working with IKEA and supports some of the company’s regional green initiatives. But as he put it, “IKEA is the least sustainable retailer on the planet.” And in real costs—the kind that our grandchildren will have to pay—that also makes it among the most expensive.


[1] A material made of pressed wood fragments and resin.
[2] A valued possession that is passed down in a family through several generations.
[3] To glorify oneself in speech; talk in a self-admiring way.


1. According to the author, which of the following statements most closely represents a typical consumer’s view of Ikea’s designs?
a) They hide the furniture’s poor quality.
b) They compensate for the furniture’s poor quality.
c) They aren’t as tasteful as some people suggest.
d) They are exotic because they have Swedish names.

2. The article mentions several ways in which Ikea keeps its costs down, mentioning all of the following EXCEPT:
a) Using suppliers in countries with cheap labor.
b) Locating its retail centers outside of big cities.
c) Buying large amounts of wood every year.
d) Requiring customers to assemble their purchases.

3. According to the text, which of the following is a reason why Ikea is sometimes believed to be a green company?
a) The lamps they sell use low-wattage bulbs.
b) They make furniture out of recycled material.
c) They never buy illegally-harvested wood.
d) They participate in various green initiatives.

4. According to the author, the low quality of Ikea furniture is an environmental problem for all of the reasons below EXCEPT:
a) People don’t usually bother to fix cheap things when they break.
b) People rarely feel any attachment to objects that aren’t well-crafted.
c) Ikea furniture is not designed to last a lifetime.
d) Its low quality makes it unsafe for people to transport.

5. The author’s principal claim against Ikea is that
a) its furniture is of very low quality.
b) its business model harms the environment.
c) it tricks people into believing it’s a “green” company, when in fact it isn’t.
d) the company contributes to deforestation in low-wage countries.