It’s Good to be the King!

September 18, 2008


Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi simply can’t help himself when it comes to beautiful women. On this occasion, the subject of his all too obvious glancing is the newly-crowned Miss Italy Miriam Leone.

Many of his supporters certainly do forgive him, with the exception of his long suffering wife, Veronica:

Mr Berlusconi was appearing on the current affairs show, Porta a Porta, and found himself discussing the issues of the day with Miss Leone, a 23-year-old student who possesses a pair of enviably long legs.

But his admiring glance is likely to provoke the ire of Veronica, Mr Berlusconi’s long-suffering wife of more than 20 years.

She took the unusual step of contacting Left-leaning newspaper La Repubblica following reports that the politician had approached several women at a party and told them: “If I wasn’t married, I would marry you straight away.”

In her letter, she wrote: “These were declarations that I see as damaging to my dignity and cannot be treated as just joke. That is why I am asking for a public apology as I have not receievd one in private.”

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GZA and the Liquid Swords Revival

September 16, 2008

GZA rocks the crowd at the Fillmore in New York City, September 12, 2008

The juggernaut known as capitalism becomes a steamroller when combined with the corporate entertainment history. All forms of artistic expression that break the barrier between the unknown and the popular are quickly co-opted by the industry, packaged, marketed, and force-fed to the willing masses.

Hip Hop hasn’t escaped this truism. Born in the South Bronx, the DJ and rapper formed two of the four parts of the hip hop culture rising at the time (the other two being breakdancing and graffiti). Similar to punk and to rock’n’roll in the 1950s, hip hop was rebellion in musical form. From the deconstruction of the popular music of the day in which singing was overdubbed and manipulated, and instruments were numerous and played with by sound producers, hip hop stripped it bare by having a DJ with a turntable and an MC with a mic. Read the rest of this entry »

Chilean Youth, Democracy, and Sexual Liberation

September 15, 2008

A “sexual revolution” has found fertile soil in post-Pinochet Chile (image courtesy of Tomas Munita)

Long the bastion of conservative social mores, Chile is undergoing a rapid transformation that is being spearheaded by its youth as they engage in a sexual revolution reminiscent of the USA during the 1960s. Viewing themselves as “the children of democracy and not dictatorship”, Chilean teenagers are taking advantage of the freedoms accorded them in the post-Pinochet era. Alexei Barrionuevo explains:

“Chile’s youth are clearly having sex earlier and testing the borderlines with their sexual conduct,” said Dr. Ramiro Molina, director of the University of Chile’s Center for Adolescent Reproductive Medicine and Development.

The sexual awakening is happening through a booming industry for 18-and-under parties, an explosion of Internet connectivity and through Web sites like Fotolog, where young people trade suggestive photos of each other and organize weekend parties, some of which have drawn more than 4,500 teenagers. The online networks have emboldened teenagers to express themselves in ways that were never customary in Chile’s conservative society.

“We are not the children of the dictatorship; we are the children of democracy,” said Michele Bravo, 17, at a recent afternoon party. “There is much more of a rebellious spirit among young people today. There is much more freedom to explore everything.”

Politics is tied into the personal here as the old dictatorship crumbled and along with it Chile’s social conservatism. When borders are opened up it only becomes natural to see what is on the other side. The “grass is greener over there” syndrome becomes a prevalent view as individuals take part in these new freedoms previously denied them by rigid social mores. But to what end? America’s experiment with “free love” saw the rise of STDs, teen pregnancies, rising divorce rates, and broken families. Sexual liberation also brought what some consider to be a “slave to the libido” mentality and the rise of raunch culture. Explorations of new freedoms don’t necessarily denote a victory of sorts as the American example attests to. Hopefully Chile can cope with this new openness without the social ramifications felt elsewhere by those who engaged in the same “revolution”.

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Italians unite against ‘il weekend’ – lingustic reactionaries target ‘Anglitaliano’

September 10, 2008

Wadda you mean ‘il weekend’? Basta! It’s fine settimana!

The pervasiveness of the English language in our world today can be attributed to many factors, history, economy, and culture foremost amongst them. Counting close to two billion speakers, it’s easy to say that English is a global language and in many parts of the world is the lingua franca even if it’s not native language.

English shapes and forms the new trends in other languages thanks to this massive presence. One need only think of the English term “football” (soccer in North America) to see how the language has influenced other languages. The Spanish refer to the game as “futbol” and Serbs simply spell it “fudbal”. English loan words then undergo a process of adaptation to best suit the native language.

The French refer to the mixing of English and French as “Franglais” which quite often is seen as a degeneration of the native tongue. So much so is Franglais seen as a threat that the French government finances the Académie française to ensure the French nature of the French language.

As French culture has come under increasing pressure with the widespread availability of English media, the Académie has tried to prevent the anglicisation of the French language. For example, the Académie has recommended, with mixed success, that some loanwords from English (such as walkman, software and email) be avoided, in favour of words derived from French (baladeur, logiciel, and courriel respectively). Moreover, the Académie has worked to modernise French orthography.

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Venezuela’s Beauty Industry

September 5, 2008

Miss Venezuela
Miss Venezuela, Dayana Mendoza

For news junkies, say the word Venezuela, and one will automatically think of two things: its assertive leader Hugo Chavez who is the bane of the USA in Latin America (a role he has taken over from Fidel Castro) and of course, oil. The latter serves as Venezuela’s main industry and main source of revenue as well as contention with the outside world. Yet there is another natural resource that Venezuela has been blessed with: beauty, and more specifically beautiful women for beauty pageants.

Rory Carroll of the UK Guardian takes a look at Venezuela’s beauty industry in: No place for runners-up in land of oil and beauty. Here’s an excerpt from the article:

Many ordinary Venezuelans, male and female, proudly assert that this is a land blessed with two things: oil and beautiful women. There are thousands of local beauty contests held annually in schools and villages and banks offer loans for nose jobs.

President Hugo Chávez has railed against widespread cosmetic surgery – girls as young as 15 request breast enlargements as birthday presents – and has tried to steer the country in a more socialist and less materialistic direction.

But not even the commandante criticises the pageants.

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From the Office of the Obvious: Musical Tastes Do Reflect Personality

September 4, 2008

rock music fans
The survey shows that heavy metal fans are also very creative and at ease with themselves, but not are not very outgoing or hard-working

Growing up in the early 80s out in suburbia, the musical divide was a simple one: you either listened to hard rock/heavy metal of the Led Zeppelin/Rolling Stones/Def Leppard/Judas Priest variety, or you listened to New Wave coming out of the UK best represented by bands such as Depeche Mode and The Smiths. Alongside the debates that raged about the musical qualities of each came subtle (or blunt) jabs at what each others’ tastes meant about the person themselves.

For instance, the prevalence of black leather and lumberjack coat attire plus feathered hair gave fans of heavy metal a “dirty” appearance. The trite lyricism of hard rock allowed its fans to be mocked for their intelligence or lack thereof. The glam look of New Wave acts naturally led to those in the opposing camps to question the sexuality of their fans.

Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh conducted an extensive study of 36,000 music fans to research what their musical tastes say about their personalities. Here are some of the thumbnail results:

Indie: Devotees have low self-esteem and are not very hard-working, kind or generous. However, they are creative.

Rock ‘n’ Roll: Fans have high self-esteem and are very creative, hard-working and at ease with themselves, but not very kind or generous.

Blues: High self-esteem, creative, outgoing and at ease with themselves.

Classical: Classical music lovers have high self-esteem, are creative and at ease with themselves, but not outgoing.

Heavy metal: Very creative and at ease with themselves, but not very outgoing or hard-working.

Reggae: High self-esteem, creative, outgoing, kind, generous and at ease with themselves, but not very hard-working.

Country & Western: Very hard-working and outgoing.

Dance: Creative and outgoing but not kind or generous.

Rap: High self-esteem, outgoing.

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What Makes the Perfect City?

September 4, 2008

futuristic city
Rendering of a futuristic San Francisco run by geothermal power by IwamotoScott Architecture

City planning is as old as cities themselves, although the last one hundred and fifty years have seen the city replace the countryside as the primary residence of people. The population explosion that has come about since the Industrial Revolution and is continuing throughout the developing world has put strains on our cities whether socially, environmentally, economically, etc.

City planners have long had a thankless job as few have ever been historically feted yet most are lamented in one way or another. Some cities work; others fail. Some cities become a world unto themselves such as New York or Paris. Others become wastelands such as Gary, Indiana or Middlesbrough, UK.

So what makes a perfect city? Dejan Sudjic, director of the Design Museum of London, tells us the attributes that a perfect city must have:

The perfect city simply doesn’t exist: it would have an underground railway as organised as Tokyo’s, with a bus service as inspiring as the vaporetti of Venice. It would have a setting as beautiful as Stockholm’s. It would have New York’s museums and its 24-hour culture, with Berlin’s cheap, high-ceilinged apartments, and Hong Kong’s energy. It would have London’s tolerance of utterly different ways of life, coexisting side by side. It would have the street life of Naples, and the street cleaning of Zurich.

The following is what would in my opinion make for a perfect city: Read the rest of this entry »