Friday, December 18, 2015


Michael Mosley takes to the streets of Edinburgh to show people how to give themselves a hit of pleasure, using only a pencil.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Frank Sinatra's songs + lyrics

OM SINATRA is a very enjoyable section of an Argentinian website for learners of English. Frank Sinatra's voice and his clear diction are perfect ingredients for practising English, so this section provides wide possibilities for ESL students and teachers. Here you will find 50 best lyrics, together with audios, some videos, glossaries and explanations. Choose your favourite song with on-screen original lyrics. Don't miss such classics as My Way, New York, New Yorkor Strangers in the Night!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Fighting Islamophobia


British soldier who lost leg in Iraq issues powerful message to those who think he should hate Muslims

Chris Herbert said he was frustrated by people expecting racism from him. Credit: Facebook/Chris Herbert
   British soldier who lost his leg in Iraq has posted a powerful message to people "expecting racism" from him just because he "got blown up".
Chris Herbert was just 19 when his vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb in Basra, Iraq which killed his friend, injured another and left him facing the prospect of living the rest of his life without his right leg.
In the weeks after the Paris atrocities, the former serviceman said he has been troubled by the number of people who have expected him to be Islamophobic just because a "Muslim man blew me up".
In a powerful Facebook message, which has been shared tens of thousands of times, Herbert goes on to list the Muslims who have helped him - including the Muslim surgeon who performed the surgery that saved his life.
Herbert, who lives in Portsmouth, also speaks about the "white Brits" who have done unpleasant things to him in his life.
"If you want to hate an entire race of men and women for the actions of a few dickheads feel free, but don't push your views on me, thinking I am an easy target because one douchebag decided it was my day to die," he wrote.
"Blaming all Muslims for the actions of groups like Daeshe and the Taliban, is like blaming all Christians for the actions of the KKK or Westboro Baptist Church."
"Get a grip of your lives, hug your family and get back to work."
Here's his Facebook post in full:
Getting frustrated by some people expecting racism from me, because I got blown up.
Here it is:
Yes. A Muslim man blew me up, and I lost my leg.
A Muslim man also lost his arm that day wearing a British Uniform.
A Muslim medic was in the helicopter that took me from the field.
A Muslim surgeon performed the surgery that saved my life.
A Muslim Nurse was part of the team that helped me when I returned to the UK.
A Muslim Healthcare Assistant was part of the team that sorted out my day to day needs in rehabilitation when I was learning to walk.
A Muslim taxi driver gave me a free ride the first time I went for a beer with my Dad after I came home.
A Muslim doctor offered my Dad comfort and advice in a pub, when he didn't know how to deal with my medicines and side effects.
Contrary to that:
A white Brit spat in my girlfriend's face for 'fucking a cripple when you could have me [him]'
A White Brit pushed my wheelchair away from a lift so he could use it first.
A White Brit screamed at my Dad for parking in a disabled bay when I was in the services coming home.
(Although, alot of people helped in my recovery! I dont hate white brits either! hahaha)
Point is, fuck off. I know who I dislike, and I know who I don't. I know who I appreciate, and I know who I don't.
If you want to hate an entire race of men and women for the actions of a few dickheads feel free, but don't push your views on me, thinking I am an easy target because one douchebag decided it was my day to die.
Blaming all Muslims for the actions of groups like Daeshe and the Taliban, is like blaming all Christians for the actions of the KKK or Westboro Baptist Church. Get a grip of your lives, hug your family and get back to work.

Saturday, December 05, 2015

Mafalda in Oviedo

Among many other things, Mafalda is an Oviedo girl. When she arrived in this Spanish northern town together with her creator, Argentinian cartoonist Quino, she said, "Stop the world, I want to get off!" And it's a good job that what Mafalda hates is soup and not fabada, the traditional Asturian bean stew. That happened in 2014, when the famous cartoonist received the Prince of Asturias Award for Communication and Humanities. Since then, Mafalda spends her days sitting on a bench in Oviedo's San Francisco Park, contemplating the pond and thinking about how to change the world.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

The Need to Read

Reading books is one of the most recommended language-learning activities to do outside the classroom. For one thing, reading is free. Also, reading helps you fix the structures you learn in your brain without you even noticing it. 

In hard times like these, when Public Education is subject to continuous budget cutbacks, checking out books freely from the Engineering School Library is one of those treats our diminishing welfare state still can provide for you. Take advantage of it! As the photo above shows, on shelf 66 on the second floor you will find a collection of about 200 books aimed at A2B1B2 and C1 learners. Some of these reading books come with an audio CD. They are a suggestion to help you improve your vocabulary and syntax, and with the audio mp3, improve your comprehension of spoken English. Check some of them out and enjoy reading a good story.

Don't forget there are tons of free books on the Internet that you can download too, or read them online; a good place to start is Project Gutenberg, which has more than 50,000 free books. And, if you are using a Kindle, you can use the English-English dictionary or an English-Spanish dictionary for difficult words.

BOOK LOAN PROGRAMME. Also, check with me for other A2 or B1 readers I can lend you in class or at my office at the ESI (Entreplanta 1ª) during my tutoring hours. You will improve your English enormously! After you borrow a book, send me an email with the Subject BOOK LOAN: 
"Hello, I am ________________ from group 000. I have borrowed the book ________________ from you. I will give it back in 6 weeks’ time. My phone number is 666 666 666. Thank you."

Torture Is Not Culture!

British comedian Ricky Gervais has called for bullfighting to be banned after learning of the death of 29-year-old Miguel Ruiz Pérez, who died after being gored during summer festivities in the town of Lerín, in the northeastern Navarre region.
“Poor terrified bull. Ban cruel sports,” he wrote on Monday in a retweet of a Daily Mirror video showing Ruiz Pérez attempting to outrun the animal in a makeshift bullring while hundreds of people looked on.
Gervais has since posted a video on his Facebook page in which he says: “If you decide to torture an animal to death, I hope it defends itself.” Describing the people who watch bullfights as morons, he adds: “If you choose to fight a bull for fun, fuck you.”
The comedian, who shot to fame a decade ago in The Office, dismissed arguments defending bullfighting on the grounds that it was tradition, noting that slavery, witchcraft and child sacrifice were also once regularly practiced: “We’ve moved on… it’s about fucking time you stopped.”
Gervais tweeted several times about bullfighting over the day: “A matador being killed by a bull is not the tragic bit. Torturing the bull for fun in the first place is the tragic bit.”
The video has since been shared around 10,000 times, with most people supporting Gervais’s position and calling for an end to bullfighting. Gervais is an active defender of animal rights, and recently joined a number of Hollywood stars in condemning the killing of Cecil the Lion in Zimbabwe last month by a US dentist. “Animals don’t have a voice, but I do. And it’s a big one. My voice is for them and I will never be quiet as long as they are suffering,” he has said.
Growing numbers of Spanish celebrities are also calling for an end to bullfighting and the use of animals in festivities. La tortura no es cultura (Torture isn’t culture) is an awareness drive initiated by PACMA, a political party that supports animal rights. Its campaign to ban the Toro de la Vega, an event dating back to medieval times in which a bull is ritually killed by residents of the town of Tordesillas, Valladolid province, each September 15, has been backed by actors and television personalities such as Dani Rovira, Jorge Javier Vázquez, Eva Isanta and David Muro.
“I find it abhorrent that people can enjoy the suffering of animals,” says Dani Rovira, star of last year’s hit Spanish comedy Ocho apellidos vascos. A demonstration is planned in Madrid for September 12 to call for an end to the Toro de la Vega.
Musicians and other artists have thrown their support behind a planned music festival in Tordesillas to coincide with the Toro de la Vega. (El País in English, August 19th, 2015)


Friday, November 27, 2015

A2 Translating Possessives and Plurals

Rules of the Possessive ‘s / s’
When the possessor is singular, add ‘s: The girl’s father.
When the possessor is a regular plural, add an apostrophe: The students’ books.
When the possessor is an irregular plural, add ‘s (as in the singular): The women’s bags.
Please note: John and Sarah’s car. My friend’s mother’s bag. Charles’ wife OR Charles’s wife.

Translate these sentences into English:

1. ¿Conoces a los abuelos de Carlos?
2. No me gusta el uniforme de los niños.
3. Quiere conocer a la familia de su novia.
4. El piso de María y Ana está en el centro de la cuidad.
5. ¿Cuál es el nombre de la profesora de tu sobrina?
6. Pedro conduce el coche de sus padres.
7. Ana no quiere trabajar en la empresa de su suegro.

Key to Translations:

1. Do you know Carlos’ grandparents? OR Carlos’s
2. I don’t like the children’s uniform.
3. He/she wants to meet his/her girlfriend’s family.
4. María and Ana’s flat is in the centre/center of town. OR in the town centre.
5. What’s your niece’s teacher’s name?
6. Pedro drives his parents’ car.
7. Ana doesn’t want to work for her father-in-law’s company.

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Happiness of Reading_survey

The Happiness of Reading

In celebration of its ten-year anniversary last October, the editorial group GeMS presented at Bookcity Milan a significant new research study conducted by Cesmer/Roma3 University on a sample of the Italian population, and centered on the relationship between reading books and individual happiness.  The study shows that readers are on average happier than non-readers, in addition to being better at making the most of their free time, and more psychologically prepared for confronting negative emotions. Through scientific research, the study adds a concrete dimension to this cultural discussion.

Are people who read books (either on paper or digitally) happier than those who don’t read? Does reading increase one’s well-being? These are not easy questions, so much so that no study in Italy until now has tried to answer them. In fact, the periodic surveys on reading tend to leave out these aspects, focusing above all on the number of readers in Italy – which is historically lower than in most western countries – and on its different variations. Meanwhile, the value of reading on a cognitive and emotional level has gone unknown, until today. This study wants to fill the gap, following the belief that reading could be better promoted among non-readers if its benefits were quantified. 


1. Readers in Italy are overall happier than non-readers

  • The happiness of readers rates higher than that of non-readers (measured using the 1 to 10 scale suggested by Veenhoven). In fact, Italian readers of printed or digital books register a happiness index of 7.44, while non.readers had an index of 7.21, a statistically significant difference. 
  • Using a different measurement, known as Subjective Well-being – cognitive dimension, (the Cantril scale, from 0 to 10), Italian readers once again averaged a higher level of well-being than non-readers (7.12 vs. 6.29 respectively, still statistically significant). 
2. Readers in Italy feel positive emotions more often than non-readers 
According to the scale of Diener and Biswas-Diener, which measures how frequently (from 6 to 30) people experience six positive emotions (positive, good, pleasant, happy, joyful, contented) readers have a higher index than non-readers: 21.69 vs. 20.93 respectively (a statistically significant difference). In particular, readers feel “positive” more frequently than non-readers. 

3. Readers in Italy feel negative emotions less often than non-readers 
Readers also fared better on another dimension of the same scale by Diener and Biswas-Diener. This part measures how frequently (from 6 to 30) people recently experienced six negative emotions (negative, bad, unpleasant, sad, afraid, angry). Readers feel negative emotions less frequently than non-readers, with an average score of 16.48, while non-readers have an average of 17.47 (a statistically significant difference). In particular, readers experience anger less often than non-readers, confirming that reading offers valuable cognitive tools for facing difficult situations. 

4. Readers are more satisfied with how they use their free time compared to non-readers 
Following the scale of Van Boven and Gilovich (2003), which measures the happiness generated from people’s employment of their free time (from 1 to 9), readers score higher than non-readers (7.59 vs. 7.35 respectively, a statistically significant difference). 

5. For readers in Italy, reading is the most important use of their free time

  • The survey studied reading’s importance in relation to the other cultural activities that people perform in their free time. 
  • Reading is the most important free time activity for Italian readers (on a scale from 1 to 9, it rates at 7.88); in second place ranks listening to music (7.31); in third, staying informed and keeping up with current events through newspapers and news sites (7.23); and in fourth, physical exercise and sports (7.02). At the bottom of the list ranks playing videogames (3.23). 

6. For readers in Italy, reading comes fourth among free-time activities for the amount of happiness gained 
While reading, as was just noted, is considered the most important free time activity for readers, it is not first in terms of the notion of generated happiness. On the 1 to 9 scale developed by Van Boven and Gilovich, readers ranked physical exercise and sports first (7.80), followed by listening to music (7.74) and cultural activities and outings (exhibitions, theater, concerts…), which had a score of 7.52. In fourth place, and still with a high score, comes reading (7.24), followed by informing oneself through newspapers and news sites, playing videogames, going to the movies, and surfing the internet or using social media. At the bottom of the list ranks watching TV.  

These are not surprising results: the survey confirms the ability of readers to appreciate their free time, taking advantage of it in manifold ways. 

On average, readers in Italy face life with a more positive outlook in comparison to non-readers, and they know how to enjoy their free time in a richer and more purposeful manner. 

Vocabulary Bank Plus: Families

1. Rafael Ramos is a Mexican doctor from a little village in the north of the country. He’s married to María Sánchez. They got married in a Catholic church. They have two children. His wife is a nurse. She’s 35. They both speak English because they use it at work with their foreign patients.

2. Yasmina Kamal is an Egyptian girl from Cairo. She is an engineering student at Cairo University. She’s 19 and she’s single. She's a Muslim. She has one sister and two brothers. Her parents were born in Cairo, too. She wants to learn English because it’s an international language.

3. Angela, Anne´s mother, isn’t married; she is a single mother. They live in a lovely house on the beach. They love the sea. Angela has an exciting job; she’s a fashion model. She travels all over the world. She wants her daughter to learn English because she wants to give her a cosmopolitan education.

4. Kevin and Lucy married in 1985. Their marriage was very unhappy, so they divorced in 2000. In 2003, Kevin met Julia and remarried. They have twins, John and Peter. His first wife, Lucy, moved to a different city after their separation. She now works at the Town Hall. She’s a civil servant.

5. Alejandro met his boyfriend Juan at a friend’s party. They married last summer. All their friends and relatives were at the wedding. They are planning to adopt two children. Alejandro is a very famous film director and Juan is a doctor. They own one flat in Madrid and another in Seville. They both speak French and English fluently.

6. Emma and Virginia are another same-sex couple. They are businesswomen and they live together in Barcelona. They want to get married next year. Emma has two sons, Julian and Oscar, from her previous relationship. Her mother-in-law is called Susan. She’s 60 and she loves her grandchildren very much. She doesn’t speak English at all.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Daesh, You Can't Win!

Michel Hazanavicius, the helmer of Oscar-winning “The Artist,” “OSS 117” and “The Search,” is a leading figure of the French film industry, as well as an outspoken advocate for social/political issues and civic liberties. Hazanavicius, who has a taste for burlesque comedy and provocative satire,  penned the following razor-sharp open letter to ISIS explaining it can’t defeat France’s epicurean lifestyle and values. Here is the English translation:

Daechois, Daechoises (Daech is a word for ISIS):

So that’s it, it’s official, you are at war against us. What’s frustrating is that you wear no uniform or distinctive sign so we don’t know how to identify you, and we therefore have no one to fight against. Frustration which I hope won’t lead to wrong accusations.

Even if every death represents for you a victory, you must know that you will not win any time soon. In reality, it’s even impossible. Because no matter what you do, you will not win. Here in France, what we love is Life. And all the pleasures that go with it.

For us, between being born and dying the oldest as possible, the idea is mainly to have sex, laugh, eat, play, have sex, drink, nap, have sex, discuss, eat, argue, paint, have sex, walk, garden, read, have sex, offer, argue, sleep, watch movies, scratch our balls, fart to make friends laugh, but more than anything have sex. We are the country of pleasure more than morale.

We like doing what we want. We try not to disturb others, that’s the idea, but we don’t like it very much when we’re told too loud what we must or must not do. That’s called freedom. Remember this word because deep inside that’s what you don’t like about us. It’s not about being French, caricaturists, Jewish, clients of cafes or fans of rock and soccer, it’s the freedom.

The second thing is that by killing that way, blindly, you run into the risk of killing French folks who are increasingly more representative of France. At least by killing only Jews or cartoonists, the non-Jews who didn’t how to draw could always find you excuses or feel like strangers in this war, but now it’s going to be more and more difficult. Because by hurting a sample which is so representative of France, you’re going to hit the core of who we really are. So who are we, really? Well, that’s the beauty of it. We are many things. Of course there are some French French French. But there are also French Italians, French Spanish, French Arabs, French Polish, French Chinese, French Rwandais, French Senegalese, French Algerians, French Berbers, French Ukrainians … French Catholics, French Jews, French Muslims, French Taoists; French buddhists, French atheists … left-wing French, right-wing French, Far-Right-wing French, there might even be French jihadists or even future French terrorists who you might killed.

The list could go on and on indefinitely. There are even people who are not French because since France is so beautiful, there are always and constantly a portion of our population that’s made up of tourists. That without counting the clandestines, who may not be officially French but who live here so technically you could kill them too. That’s what’s called equality.

When it comes to death, you can target whatever you want, you will hurt all of us. And we understand what you’re attacking. Our values. Simple. The ones that make life here the way it is. Imperfect, granted, with its injustices, that’s true, but there are the values that allow us to live here in the most dignified way as possible.

It’s the country that our fathers, the fathers of our fathers, and the fathers before them chose to live in and for which many before them fought for. And what’s going to happen, at one point or another, is that we’re going to act in solidarity, thanks to you. We’re going to understand that these values are in danger. And we’re going to cherish them even more. Together. That’s called fraternity.

That’s why you can’t win. You will cause deaths, yes. But in the eye of history, you will be nothing but the abject symptoms of a sick ideology. Of course we won’t win either. People will die, for no reason. Others will vote for Le Pen (s), Assad (s) or Putin (s) to get rid of you, and we might lose twice. But you will not win. And the ones who will remain alive will continue to have sex, drink, have dinner together, remember those who die, and have sex again.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Why do so many Spanish youngsters smoke?

A 15-year-old girl smokes alongside her 17-year-old friend in Madrid. / SAMUEL SÁNCHEZ
It’s 8.15am outside the Santa Bárbara high school in central Madrid and bitingly cold. A teenage boy and girl sit chatting and smoking as they wait for classes to begin. “We smoke a cigarette every morning when we get here, it helps with the stress of the first couple of hours,” says the girl, who prefers to use the fictitious name of Ana Pérez. She is aged 15, and says she tried her first cigarette when she was 13. Spanish Health Ministry figures from 2013 show that 12.5 percent of 14- to 18-year-olds smoke on a daily basis, a fall of just 0.02 percent since 2011, despite continued awareness campaigns about the dangers.
November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month and smoking is a first step toward contracting the disease. The Spanish Association for Lung Cancer Victims (AECaP) says that smoking is the number one cause of the illness, which affects 21,000 people each year in Spain. And that first step tends to be taken early: figures from 2010 collected by the National Statistics Institute (INE) show that young people generally start smoking between the ages of 13 and 14.
“You see all your friends smoking and so I decided to try it, and that’s how I started,” says the teenager huddled against the cold outside school. “It was pretty stupid really, just something that was fashionable,” adds her friend, who also prefers to remain anonymous, giving the name José Ramírez. He is aged 17, and started smoking when he was 13.
Both say their friends also smoke: more than 90 percent of school students say they know that smoking can damage their health, according to the Health Ministry. Aside from helping deal with stress, among the other reasons smoking continues to attract young people, says health psychologist José Elías, is that it “makes them feel older” and that they are “breaking the rules.”
The young man calling himself José Ramírez explains that his mother smoked for many years, and only gave up when she was told she would soon have to use a respirator. “I used to smoke a packet a day. I started to cut down because I realized I was smoking too much, and now I buy a packet every three days,” he says, adding that the rising cost of tobacco has helped decrease his consumption.“Smoking rates among young people in our country, and particularly among females, are very worrying,” says Dr Rosario García Campelo, a cancer specialist and member of SEOM, the Spanish Society for Medical Oncology. AECaP warns that the number of deaths in Europe from lung cancer this year will outnumber those from breast tumors for the first time.
There’s no hard evidence that younger lungs are more susceptible to cancer, but risk of the disease is certainly increased by the amount of time someone smokes over their lifetime. “The younger you start to smoke, the greater the likelihood” of contracting the disease, says Dr Bartomeu Massuti, head of the oncology department at Alicante’s main hospital.
Luis Fernández – another fictitious name – also knows something about the risks of smoking. At the age of 16 he is already an ex-smoker. He admits to having smoked around three cigarettes a day. “Especially at parties and during recess, although I had it pretty much under control,” he says. “I liked it, but this year I have felt bad physically, so I’ve stopped. I no longer cough, and have no pains, I’m much better.” He says his girlfriend introduced him to smoking.
Figures show that more than 43 percent of school students have smoked at least once in their lives, and this despite a ban on smoking in public places since 2006 and extensive media campaigns focused on discouraging young people from taking up the habit.
Ana Pérez and José Ramírez say they smoke around six cigarettes each a day. They both put out their first of the morning. It’s now 8.30am and their classes are about to begin and they make their way into school. Aside from the “obligatory” puff as soon as they leave their homes in the morning, they will light up at morning recess, have another at lunch time, and a final one before heading home for the day. 
By , El País English Edition, November 18th 2015

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Monday, November 09, 2015


A meditative film with grace and sensitivity.
In contemporary London, a Cambodian Chinese mother mourns the untimely death of her son. Her world is further disrupted by the presence of a stranger. We observe their difficulties in trying to connect with one another without a common language, as through a translator they begin to piece together memories of a man they both loved. 

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Todo lo que era sólido

Recientemente he terminado de leer Todo lo que era sólido, un ensayo lúcido y sobrecogedor de Antonio Muñoz Molina sobre lo que él llama los años del delirio y que han llevado a nuestro país a la dolorosa depresión social y moral que estamos padeciendo, una radiografía sin concesiones de nuestra adolescente democracia y de todo lo bueno que se ha quedado en el camino. Como ciudadano os recomiendo su lectura, pues hallaréis las claves de por qué hemos caído en esta regresión por el precipicio de la codicia, la corrupción, la falta de respeto, la superstición, los nacionalismos y localismos, las administraciones anquilosadas... Tras tirar de hemeroteca durante dos años, el autor (Premio Príncipe de Asturias de las Letras en 2013), desde la independencia de su posición de ilustrado comprometido con la modernización de España, documenta las causas de este fiasco nacional que está marcando a toda una generación de jóvenes. Tengo mi copia del libro subrayada de principio a fin y no sabría qué parrafo elegir para teclearlo aquí como botón de muestra. Al poco de escribirlo, le concedieron el Premio Nacional de Ensayo por esta obra. Os lo recomiendo a vosotros, a vuestros padres y madres o a vuestros hijos/as adolescentes pues es un libro que logra formar ciudadanos, fortalecer nuestra endeble democracia y hacer país. Y porque os ayudará a comprender lo que ha ocurrido (y lo que estamos padeciendo). Os advierto también que hay que tener estómago para terminarlo, ¡pero yo no cambiaría ni una sola coma! Lectura imprescindible para cualquier lector/a.

Writer Antonio Muñoz Molina was awarded with the Príncipe de Asturias Prize for Literature 2013. Todo lo que era sólido is his latest essay, which I highly recommend. It is a must-read to understand how the current Spanish social, moral and economic crisis originated.•cmg

Artículo relacionado: Lo que fuimos, lo que somos

Friday, October 30, 2015


Raif Badawi is a Saudi Arabian blogger who is serving a sentence of 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison for starting an online forum. On January 9, the Saudi authorities carried out the first round of floggings. Raif is set to be flogged every Friday. Act now to help stop the floggings and #FreeRaif. Learn more

Sunday, October 18, 2015

IdI students go to the cinema

Come and see a film in English with Spanish subtitles at the Avenida Cinema, (Marqués de Paradas, 15, opposite the Plaza de Armas Hotel), on Wednesday, October 28th, at 8pm. We'll meet 30 minutes earlier, around 7.30pm, outside the cinema. Feel free to bring a friend or a relative along. Tickets € 3.90 

In previous years, these are the films I took my students to see: The Emperor's Club (2003), Star Wars (2004), Love Actually (2005), Brokeback Mountain (2006), The History Boys (2007), Match Point (2008), Invictus (2009), Tamara Drew (2010), The Help (2011), The Angels' Share (2012), Coherence (2014) and Paterson (2016).

PS: Read V.O.:La voz humana beforehand if you want to find out why you want to watch films in the original version.

The 12th edition of "IdI Students go to the cinema".

Some of the 50 students and teachers who came to see the film at the Avenida Cinema.

La paradoja de ver sin mirar


Un impresionante ejército de esqueletos recibe animoso a los visitantes. Iñaki y Daniela entran expectantes en la hermosa Galería de Paleontología, una de las joyas del Museo de Historia Natural de París. El sobrecogimiento dura unos segundos. De inmediato desenfunda cada uno su cámara y comienza el safari fotográfico. Poseída por el espíritu del maestro Ciruela (ese que no sabía escribir y puso escuela), la tía intenta ilustrar a los pequeños sobrinos sobre las maravillas que tienen ante sus ojos: la carcasa portentosa de ese rinoceronte centenario, o la ballena de 20 metros, o el cocodrilo gigante del Mesozoico, con sus terroríficos dientes... En vano. Como dos pequeños japoneses enloquecidos, Iñaki y Daniela están sumidos en el frenesí de sus cámaras. Clic, los huesecillos de los batracios de las vitrinas, clic, la jirafa, clic, el diplodocus. ¿Pero por qué no los miráis al natural? La pregunta se topa con un destello de reproche en la mirada de sus madres. ¿Qué tiene de malo que hagan fotos?

Claro que tampoco la tía puede dar muchas lecciones. Su teléfono inteligente tiene la memoria al borde del colapso por la cantidad de fotos que acumula. (Buena parte de ellas, por cierto, de ese par de criaturas que han sido víctimas desde la cuna de la fiebre fotográfica de sus parientes). Las imágenes desbordan el móvil e invaden ordenadores y memorias portátiles. La pretensión de cribarlas y ordenarlas choca con la falta de tiempo. No estorban, pero no las ves.

En cambio, las fotos de hasta, digamos, el cambio de milenio, están clasificadas con primor. Ocupan espacio, pero... nada tan evocador como revivir secuencias que amarillean o visitar a los simpáticos ancestros que pueblan en blanco y negro los álbumes familiares. Se acabó el rito del revelado (“¿brillo o mate?”), la espera impaciente, la sorpresa por una imagen inesperada o la decepción por otra borrosa, los comentarios jocosos mientras las fotos pasan de mano en mano... Ahora compartes algunas por WhatsApp. O las cuelgas en esas redes sociales que cuentan vidas sometidas al Photoshop.

Nostalgias de viejo, sin duda. Pero engorros contemporáneos. Recorrer museos, yacimientos o zoológicos implica abrirse paso entre pelmazos que fotografían hasta los carteles explicativos, por si algún día, aburridos, se les ocurre enterarse de qué estaban visitando... O arriesgarse a que te saquen un ojo con un palo de selfie, metáfora de una actitud ante la vida: la de mirarse ensimismados en lugar de mirar a lo que nos rodea.

No solo Rajoy vive en el plasma. También esa niña de 11 años a la que su padre ha subido a sus hombros para que observe mejor los fuegos artificiales en Eurodisney… a través de la pantalla de la tableta, en lugar de dejar que la oscuridad la envuelva y que los colores estallen en su rostro.

Es el signo de los tiempos. Menos hablar, menos mirar, menos oler, menos sentir. Menos recrear... Es lo que toca en este mundo cada vez más trepidante. 
El País, 18 de octubre de 2015

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Funny Answering Machine Message

This is the excellent and hilarious school answering machine message you get when you phone this particular school in Australia. It's aimed at the parents of the school kids who either want to blame the teachers or come up with any excuse under the sun why their kids aren't performing the best at school.LOL

Monday, October 12, 2015



  • Date: 1937 (May 1st-June 4th, Paris)

  • Technique: Oil on canvas

  • Dimensions: 349,3 x 776,6 cm

  • Category: Painting

  • Entry date: 1992

  • Observations: The government of the Spanish Republic acquired the mural "Guernica" from Picasso in 1937. When World War II broke out, the artist decided that the painting should remain in the custody of New York's Museum of Modern Art for safekeeping until the conflict ended. In 1958 Picasso extended the loan of the painting to MoMA for an indefinite period, until such time that democracy had been restored in Spain. The work finally returned to this country in 1981.

  • Register number: DE00050

  • On display in: Room 206.06, Museo Reina Sofía, Madrid
An accurate depiction of a cruel, dramatic situation, Guernica was created to be part of the Spanish Pavilion at the International Exposition in Paris in 1937. Pablo Picasso’s motivation for painting the scene in this great work was the news of the German aerial bombing of the Basque town whose name the piece bears, which the artist had seen in the dramatic photographs published in various periodicals, including the French newspaper L'Humanité. Despite that, neither the studies nor the finished picture contain a single allusion to a specific event, constituting instead a generic plea against the barbarity and terror of war. The huge picture is conceived as a giant poster, testimony to the horror that the Spanish Civil War was causing and a forewarning of what was to come in the Second World War. The muted colours, the intensity of each and every one of the motifs and the way they are articulated are all essential to the extreme tragedy of the scene, which would become the emblem for all the devastating tragedies of modern society.
Guernica has attracted a number of controversial interpretations, doubtless due in part to the deliberate use in the painting of only greyish tones. Analysing the iconography in the painting, one Guernica scholar, Anthony Blunt, divides the protagonists of the pyramidal composition into two groups, the first of which is made up of three animals; the bull, the wounded horse and the winged bird that can just be made out in the background on the left. The second group is made up of the human beings, consisting of a dead soldier and a number of women: the one on the upper right, holding a lamp and leaning through a window, the mother on the left, wailing as she holds her dead child, the one rushing in from the right and finally the one who is crying out to the heavens, her arms raised as a house burns down behind her.

At this point it should be remembered that two years earlier, in 1935, Picasso had done the etching 
Minotauromaquia, a synthetic work condensing into a single image all the symbols of his cycle dedicated to the mythological creature, which stands as Guernica’s most direct relative. Incidents in Picasso’s private life and the political events afflicting Europe between the wars fused together in the motifs the painter was using at the time, resulting both in Guernica itself and all the studies and ‘postscripts’, regarded as among the most representative works of art of the 20th century.

Paloma Esteban Leal

Are machines making humans obsolete?

The Guardian, Friday 18th September 2015
Suppose that, unlike me, you’re a fresh-faced youngster, just out of education, not yet beaten down by the meaninglessness of human existence, and looking to choose a career. Preferably one that won’t be made obsolete by technology within decades. Factory jobs are out. So is taxi-driving, thanks to driverless cars. But things aren’t looking great for accountants, lawyers or journalists, either; computers already handle the simpler bits of those jobs. Software can mark certain essays with an accuracy approaching that of teachers, and make medical diagnoses more accurately than doctors.
Techno-optimists used to be confident that automation would always create more jobs than it replaced, but now some wonder if the luddites might have been right: when artificial intelligence gets good enough, could we all find ourselves replaced? History is full of people declaring this or that activity too complex for machines, only for machines to prove them wrong a few years later.

Most of this dispiriting picture is true, the author Geoff Colvin agrees in an intriguing new book, Humans Are Underrated, but there is hope. To thrive in the hi-tech future, he argues, we should stop asking what computers will never be able to do, since the answer is probably “nothing”. Instead, we should ask: “What are the activities that we humans, driven by our deepest nature, will simply insist be performed by other humans?”

The argument goes like this: over hundreds of thousands of years, our brains have evolved to excel at interacting with other humans, and we’re most fulfilled when we do. There are things we need humans to do, for reasons we can barely articulate. A computer might judge the evidence in a criminal case perfectly, but we still want a human judge to take responsibility for such a weighty decision. Emotion-recognition software might outsmart a therapist when it comes to reading your feelings – that technology is already advanced – but we want to be heard by a human. No matter how well a computer marks essays, school pupils have evolved to respond to inspiring human teachers. And even if a machine could finish writing the remaining Game Of Thrones novels, fans wouldn’t be happy: they need those words to come from one specific human’s head.
Not that the argument’s solely economic. It also helps explain, for example, why face-to-face interaction is so critical for wellbeing: it’s not that online communication’s bad, but that our brains are custom-designed for in-person exchanges, with their multitude of visual and physical cues. Computers, in short, can (and probably will) take over or transform every human job, except one: that of being human.If that’s correct, it means there’s a nub of truth in all that excruciating corporate-speak about training employees to be more empathic, or making brands “more human”. As technology colonises everything else, the most prized skills will be those we wouldn’t want machines to perform, even if they could. We’ll stop being “knowledge workers”, Colvin insists, and become “relationship workers”. It’s a cheesy phrase, but it gets at the point: humans need humanness, so that’s what will retain market value.