Archivi categoria: In inglese

Estratto dal capitolo 4 di Burmese Days, di George Orwell

There was a stirring high up in the peepul tree, and a bubbling noise like pots boiling. A flock of green pigeons were up there, eating the berries. Flory gazed up into the great green dome of the tree, trying to distinguish the birds; they were invisible, they matched the leaves so perfectly, and yet the whole tree was alive with them, shimmering, as though the ghosts of birds were shaking it. Flo rested herself against the roots and growled up at the invisible creatures. Then a single green pigeon fluttered down and perched on a lower branch. It did not know that it was being watched. It was a tender thing, smaller than a tame dove, with jade-green back as smooth as velvet, and neck and breast of iridescent colours. Its legs were like the pink wax that dentists use.
The pigeon rocked itself backwards and forwards on the bough, swelling out its breast feathers and laying its coralline beak upon them. A pang went through Flory. Alone, alone, the bitterness of being alone! So often like this, in lonely places in the forest, he would come upon something–bird, flower, tree–beautiful beyond all words, if there had been a soul with whom to share it. Beauty is meaningless until it is shared. If he had one person, just one, to halve his loneliness!

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Estratto da Mister Squishy, di David Foster Wallace

… somewhere along the line his professional marketing skills had metastasized through his whole character so that he was now the sort of man who, if he were to screw up his courage and ask a female colleague out for drinks and over drinks open his heart to her and reveal that he respected her enormously, that his feelings for her involved elements of both professional and highly personal regard, and that he spent a great deal more time thinking about her than she probably had any idea he did, and that if there were anything at all he could ever do to make her life happier or easier or more satisfying or fulfilling he hoped she’d just say the word, for that is all she would have to do, say the word or snap her thick fingers or even just look at him in a meaningful way, and he’d be there, instantly and with no reservations at all, he would nevertheless in all probability be viewed as probably just wanting to sleep with her or fondle or harass her, or as having some creepy obsession with her, or as maybe even having a small creepy secretive shrine to her in one corner of the unused second bedroom of his condominium, consisting of personal items fished out of her cubicle’s wastebasket or the occasional dry witty little notes she passed him during especially deadly or absurd Team Δy staff meetings, or that his home Apple PowerBook’s screensaver was an Adobe-brand 1440-dpi blowup of a digital snapshot of the two of them with his arm over her shoulder and just part of the arm and shoulder of another Team Δy Field-worker with his arm over her shoulder from the other side at a Fourth of July picnic that A.C. Romney-Jaswat & Assoc. had thrown for its research subcontractors at Navy Pier two years past, Darlene holding her cup and smiling in such a way as to show almost as much upper gum as teeth, the ale’s cup’s red digitally enhanced to match her lipstick and the small scarlet rainbow she often wore just right of center as a sort of personal signature or statement.

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Estratto dal capitolo 6 di The New Traveler’s Almanac, in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, di Alan Moore

We headed on without event, though rather slowly, and at sunset yesterday we glimpsed what proved to be the claw-carved ice caves that comprise the region called Polar Bear Kingdom, where we were intrigued to find the gentle yet ferocious-looking ursine natives quite conversant with the English language and entirely unsurprised by our arrival in the frigid coastal waters of their realm. (…) They told us how they had been lately visited by representatives of an American who manufactured phosphate drinks and was most anxious in securing the pictorial rights to any suitably appealing bear activity, for purposes of advertising. They also said that the representatives had next struck further north in hope of finding an elusive polar witch-doctor with whom they sought to make a similar agreement. (…) We struck north and shortly blundered into yet more sense-defying circumstances, coming on a strange and mournful figure crouched before a deer-hide wigwam howling penitently. (…) The wild-eyed, bearded fellow, we discovered, was the same witch-doctor that our friends had warned us of, though he seemed far too stricken by remorse to do us harm. He wore, as his magician’s robe, a fresh-flayed reindeer hide reversed so that the skin was outermost, its bloody red by now turned almost black, lined by the fur inside that stuck out in a trim around the garment’s edge. The beast’s head formed a cowl, the antlers jutting there above his lined, grey-bearded face. He told us between moans of anguish that he was the ‘sha-man’ of the North Pole, charged at the mid-winter solstice with delivering the gift of cheer to all the homes on Earth, his disembodied soul darting around the globe born by his flying spirit animals while all the time his body lies here in his wigwam, raving mad and stained with vomit from the mind-affecting spotted mushrooms that he must take to achieve his trance. Apparently, this Christmas past, his trance was interrupted by two rash Americans who represented the same phosphate-drink concern the polar bears had told us of. This breach of the magician’s most important yearly ritual was met by the witch-doctor’s fierce invisible familiars, or ‘little helpers’ as he called them, who had torn one of the representatives into the shreds we saw a short way off. The other fled, but only after reassuring the frantically-apologizing witch-man that his actions did not constitute a reason to break off their hoped-for future business dealings.

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Estratto dal capitolo 6 di A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, di Dave Eggers

What am I giving you? I am giving you nothing. I am giving you things that God knows, everyone knows. (…) It seems like you know something, but you still know nothing. I tell you and it evaporates. I don’t care—how could I care? I tell you how many people I have slept with (thirty-two), or how my parents left this world, and what have I really given you? Nothing. I can tell you the names of my friends, their phone numbers, but what do you have? You have nothing. They all granted permission. Why is that? Because you have nothing, you have some phone numbers. It seems precious for one, two seconds. You have what I can afford to give. You are a panhandler, begging for anything, and I am the man walking briskly by, tossing a quarter or so into your paper cup. I can afford to give you this. This does not break me. I give you virtually everything I have. I give you all of the best things I have, and while these things are things that I like, memories that I treasure, good or bad, like the pictures of my family on my walls, I can show them to you without diminishing them. I can afford to give you everything. We gasp at the wretches on afternoon shows who reveal their hideous secrets in front of millions of similarly wretched viewers, and yet… what have we taken from them, what have they given us? Nothing. We know that Janine had sex with her daughter’s boyfriend, but… then what? We will die and will have protected… what? Protected from all the world that, what, we do this or that, that our arms have made these movements and our mouths these sounds? Please. We feel that to reveal embarrassing or private things, like, say, masturbatory habits (for me, about once a day, usually in the shower), we have given someone something, that, like a primitive person fearing that a photograph will steal his soul, we identify our secrets, our past and their blotches, with our identity, that revealing our habits or losses or deeds somehow makes one less of oneself. But it is just the opposite, more is more is more—more bleeding, more giving. These things, details, stories, whatever, are like the skin shed by snakes, who leave theirs for anyone to see. What does he care where it is, who sees it, this snake, and his skin? He leaves it where he molts. Hours, days or months later, we come across a snake’s long-shed skin and we know something of the snake, we know that it’s of this approximate girth and that approximate length, but we know very little else. Do we know where the snake is now? What the snake is thinking now? No. By now the snake could be wearing fur; the snake could be selling pencils in Hanoi. The skin is no longer his, he wore it because it grew from him, but then it dried and slipped off and he and everyone could look at it.

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Discorso di John Cleese al funerale di Graham Chapman

Graham Chapman, co-author of the ‘Parrot Sketch,’ is no more.
He has ceased to be, bereft of life, he rests in peace, he has kicked the bucket, hopped the twig, bit the dust, snuffed it, breathed his last, and gone to meet the Great Head of Light Entertainment in the sky, and I guess that we’re all thinking how sad it is that a man of such talent, such capability and kindness, of such unusual intelligence should now be so suddenly spirited away at the age of only forty-eight, before he’d achieved many of the things of which he was capable, and before he’d had enough fun.
Well, I feel that I should say, “Nonsense. Good riddance to him, the freeloading bastard! I hope he fries.”
And the reason I think I should say this is, he would never forgive me if I didn’t, if I threw away this glorious opportunity to shock you all on his behalf. Anything for him but mindless good taste. I could hear him whispering in my ear last night as I was writing this:
“Alright, Cleese, you’re very proud of being the first person to ever say ‘shit’ on British television. If this service is really for me, just for starters, I want you to become the first person ever at a British memorial service to say ‘fuck’!”
You see, the trouble is, I can’t. If he were here with me now I would probably have the courage, because he always emboldened me. But the truth is, I lack his balls, his splendid defiance. And so I’ll have to content myself instead with saying ‘Betty Marsden…’
But bolder and less inhibited spirits than me follow today. Jones and Idle, Gilliam and Palin. Heaven knows what the next hour will bring in Graham’s name. Trousers dropping, blasphemers on pogo sticks, spectacular displays of high-speed farting, synchronised incest. One of the four is planning to stuff a dead ocelot and a 1922 Remington typewriter up his own arse to the sound of the second movement of Elgar’s cello concerto. And that’s in the first half.
Because you see, Gray would have wanted it this way. Really. Anything for him but mindless good taste. And that’s what I’ll always remember about him—apart, of course, from his Olympian extravagance. He was the prince of bad taste. He loved to shock. In fact, Gray, more than anyone I knew, embodied and symbolised all that was most offensive and juvenile in Monty Python. And his delight in shocking people led him on to greater and greater feats. I like to think of him as the pioneering beacon that beat the path along which fainter spirits could follow.
Some memories. I remember writing the undertaker speech with him, and him suggesting the punch line, ‘All right, we’ll eat her, but if you feel bad about it afterwards, we’ll dig a grave and you can throw up into it.’ I remember discovering in 1969, when we wrote every day at the flat where Connie Booth and I lived, that he’d recently discovered the game of printing four-letter words on neat little squares of paper, and then quietly placing them at strategic points around our flat, forcing Connie and me into frantic last minute paper chases whenever we were expecting important guests.
I remember him at BBC parties crawling around on all fours, rubbing himself affectionately against the legs of gray-suited executives, and delicately nibbling the more appetizing female calves. Mrs. Eric Morecambe remembers that too.
I remember his being invited to speak at the Oxford Union, and entering the chamber dressed as a carrot—a full length orange tapering costume with a large, bright green sprig as a hat—and then, when his turn came to speak, refusing to do so. He just stood there, literally speechless, for twenty minutes, smiling beatifically. The only time in world history that a totally silent man has succeeded in inciting a riot.
I remember Graham receiving a Sun newspaper TV award from Reggie Maudling. Who else! And taking the trophy falling to the ground and crawling all the way back to his table, screaming loudly, as loudly as he could. And if you remember Gray, that was very loud indeed.
It is magnificent, isn’t it? You see, the thing about shock… is not that it upsets some people, I think; I think that it gives others a momentary joy of liberation, as we realised in that instant that the social rules that constrict our lives so terribly are not actually very important.
Well, Gray can’t do that for us anymore. He’s gone. He is an ex-Chapman. All we have of him now is our memories. But it will be some time before they fade.

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We Have No Budget for Photos, di Tony Sleep

I receive an average of 2 proposals a week from people who have “no budget”  for photographs. Book publishers, magazines, newspapers, charities, corporates and start-ups nowadays all believe that photos are cost free, or that they are doing me a favour by offering to use my work and giving me a byline.
I no longer reply to such inquiries except by linking to this text.
Let’s be clear about a few things:
“No budget” is a euphemism for “we think photographers are mugs”. This offensive interpretation can easily be verifed by trying the phrase at your local restaurant, eg “I have no budget for dinner but I’d like to eat”. Adding a promise to tell all your friends where you ate will not deflect your head from the kerb as the manager throws you out.
Now imagine being a restaurant where  most people who come through the door try this on. The answer is NO, and I am being excessively polite.
If you didn’t really mean it and your “no budget” claim was just an opening bid, the answer is still NO. I want nothing to do with greedy opportunists who try to commence a negotiation with a lie. You have already demonstrated you cannot be trusted. You probably won’t be honest about usage, and will try not to pay.
And if you were one of those promising lots of better, paid work later, if only I can help you out now,  offer a contract else I’ll know you’re talking bullshit and the answer is of course NO.
You see I don’t want your stinking “exposure”, I want mutually beneficial, productive relationships with clients. I try to behave with  integrity, honesty and fairness, and I expect clients will do likewise. Exposure is the end of that process, not a means. Similarly with bylines.  I don’t require applause earned by being a sucker. If free matters more than good, ask someone else.
Like most people I work because I need to pay bills and support myself, my work and my family. The fact that I love what I do is why I have spent 40 years persevering whilst going without stuff most people take for granted. Vocation is not an invitation to disrespect.
Unsurprisingly I will not support parasitic business models that rely on exploiting photography, or me,  to extinction. With very rare exceptions (small charities run by unpaid volunteers that I choose to support) I have no budget for subsidising other peoples’ work and profitability. Supporting my own is next to impossible thanks to the current vogue for passing off exploitation as opportunity.
When I can afford it, I will drop a few quid into a charity box or give to a homeless person on the street. I regularly work for charities at a discounted rate. I look after baby birds that have fallen out of nests. I am a generous, kind and loving human being. But I  make an exception for salaried beggars who ask me to stuff a bundle of tenners in their pocket. They just piss me off. Especially when they insult me by telling me my life’s work is jolly nice but worthless.
I have had the most amazing conversations with numerous chancers who think decent photos are just some sort of serendipity that they should be entitled to freely earn off because electrons don’t cost much. One woman, a CEO of a £3.3m/yr organisation, explained that they like to use photos on their website because readers tell them that images communicate on a more accessible level than the text she commissions from her paid writers. So the value of photos was not in question. But she could not understand that perhaps she ought to use some of her £160,000 year website budget (I looked up their accounts on the web) to pay for photos. She could not understand that the photo she wanted to use only existed because I had invested time and money and learning in creating it. “Most photographers are happy to let us use their work for free”. Oh no they aren’t. They just didn’t go and look at her accounts and see that this woman was on £66k a year salary and ask why she didn’t work for the same rate she was shamelessly demanding.
Supply without payment is, of course, only viable for hobbyist photographers who don’t need an income from their photography. They have salaried jobs, pensions or private incomes, or perhaps suicidal romantic tendencies. I do not. They have a selfish attitude to destroying the sustainability of photography as a profession which they call “beating the pro’s at their own game”. Moreover a byline might appeal to their idiot vanity. I suggest you ask one of them. Alternatively find a new graduate or student to exploit – they are desperate and naive, and you have the opportunity to add to their crippling student debt by saving yourself a few quid.
If all this means you can’t source the images you want, that is just tough. I can’t source free cameras, computers, software, food, housing, fuel, either. If it’s all so damn easy and cheap, go and make your own photos.
If all this offends you, best stay away from mirrors too.

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Elephants’ Wings, di PZ Myers

Once upon a time, four blind men were walking in the forest, and they bumped into an elephant.
Moe was in front, and found himself holding the trunk. “It has a tentacle,” he said. “I think we have found a giant squid!”
Larry bumped into the side of the elephant. “It’s a wall,” he said, “A big, bristly wall.”
Curly, at the back, touched the tail. “It’s nothing to worry about, nothing but a piece of rope dangling in the trail.”
Eagletosh saw the interruption as an opportunity to sit in the shade beneath a tree and relax. “It is my considered opinion,” he said, “that whatever it is has feathers. Beautiful iridescent feathers of many hues.”
The first three, being of a scientifical bent, quickly collaborated and changed places, and confirmed each other’s observations; they agreed that each had been correct in the results of their investigations, except that there wasn’t a hint of feathers anywhere about, but clearly their interpretations required correction and more data. So they explored further, reporting to each other what they were finding, in order to establish a more complete picture of the obstacle in the path.
“Tracing the tentacle back, I find that it is attached to a large head with eyes, fan-shaped ears, and a mouth bearing tusks. It is not a squid, alas, but seems to be a large mammal of some sort,” said Moe.
“Quite right, Moe — I have found four thick limbs. Definitely a large tetrapod,” said Larry.
Curly seems distressed. “It’s a bit complicated and delicate back here, guys, but I have probed an interesting orifice. Since this is a children’s story, I will defer on reporting the details.”
Eagletosh yawns and stretches in the shade of a tree. “It has wings, large wings, that it may ascend into the heavens and inspire humanity. There could be no purpose to such an animal without an ability to loft a metaphor and give us something to which we might aspire.”
The other three ignore the idling philosopher, because exciting things are happening with their elephant!
“I can feel its trunk grasping the vegetation, uprooting it, and stuffing it into its mouth! It’s prehensile! Amazing!”, said Moe.
Larry presses his ear against the animal’s flank. “I can hear rumbling noises as its digestive system processes the food! It’s very loud and large.”
There is a squishy plop from the back end. “Oh, no,” says Curly, “I can smell that, and I think I should go take a bath.”
“You are all completely missing the beauty of its unfurled wings,” sneers Eagletosh, “While you tinker with pedestrian trivialities and muck about in earthy debasement, I contemplate the transcendant qualities of this noble creature. ‘Tis an angel made manifest, a symbol of the deeper meaning of life.”
“No wings, knucklehead, and no feathers, either,” says Moe.
“Philistine,” says Eagletosh. “Perhaps they are invisible, or tucked inside clever hidden pockets on the flank of the elephant, or better yet, I suspect they are quantum. You can’t prove they aren’t quantum.”
The investigations continue, in meticulous detail by the three, and in ever broader strokes of metaphorical speculation by the one. Many years later, they have accomplished much.
Moe has studied the elephant and its behavior for years, figuring out how to communicate with it and other members of the herd, working out their diet, their diseases and health, and how to get them to work alongside people. He has profited, using elephants as heavy labor in construction work, and he has also used them, unfortunately, in war. He has not figured out how to use them as an air force, however…but he is a master of elephant biology and industry.
Larry studied the elephant, but has also used his knowledge of the animal to study the other beasts in the region: giraffes and hippos and lions and even people. He is an expert in comparative anatomy and physiology, and also has come up with an interesting theory to explain the similarities and differences between these animals. He is a famous scholar of the living world.
Curly’s experiences lead him to explore the environment of the elephant, from the dung beetles that scurry after them to the leafy branches they strip from the trees. He learns how the elephant is dependent on its surroundings, and how its actions change the forest and the plains. He becomes an ecologist and conservationist, and works to protect the herds and the other elements of the biome.
Eagletosh writes books. Very influential books. Soon, many of the people who have never encountered an elephant are convinced that they all have wings. Those who have seen photos are at least persuaded that elephants have quantum wings, which just happened to be vibrating invisibly when the picture was snapped. He convinces many people that the true virtue of the elephant lies in its splendid wings — to the point that anyone who disagrees and claims that they are only terrestrial animals is betraying the beauty of the elephant.
Exasperated, Larry takes a break from writing technical treatises about mammalian anatomy, and writes a book for the lay public, The Elephant Has No Wings. While quite popular, the Eagletoshians are outraged. How dare he denigrate the volant proboscidian? Does he think it a mere mechanical mammal, mired in mud, never soaring among the stars? Has he no appreciation for the scholarship of the experts in elephant wings? Doesn’t he realize that he can’t possibly disprove the existence of wings on elephants, especially when they can be tucked so neatly into the quantum? (The question of how the original prophets of wingedness came by their information never seems to come up, or is never considered very deeply.) It was offensive to cripple the poor elephants, rendering them earthbound.
When that book was quickly followed by Moe’s The Elephant Walks and Curly’s Land of the Elephant, the elephant wing scholars were in a panic — they were being attacked by experts in elephants, who seemed to know far more about elephants than they did! Fortunately, the scientists knew little about elephant’s wings — surprising, that — and the public was steeped in favorable certainty that elephants, far away, were flapping gallantly through the sky. They also had the benefit of vast sums of money. Wealth was rarely associated with competence in matters elephantine, and tycoons were pouring cash into efforts to reconcile the virtuous wingedness of elephants with the uncomfortable reality of anatomy. Even a few scientists who ought to know better were swayed over to the side of the winged; to their credit, it was rarely because of profit, but more because they were sentimentally attached to the idea of wings. They couldn’t deny the evidence, however, and were usually observed to squirm as they invoked the mystic power of the quantum, or of fleeting, invisible wings that only appeared when no one was looking.
And there the battle stands, an ongoing argument between the blind who struggle to explore the world as it is around them, and the blind who prefer to conjure phantoms in the spaces within their skulls. I have to disappoint you, because I have no ending and no resolution, only a question.
Where do you find meaning and joy and richness and beauty, O Reader? In elephants, or elephants’ wings?

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Estratto dal capitolo 5 di And Another Thing…, di Eoin Colfer

Anything can be real. Every imaginable thing is happening somewhere along the dimensional axis. These things happen a billion times over with exactly the same outcome and no one learns anything. Whatever a person can think, imagine, wish for, or believe has already come to pass. Dreams come true all the time, just not for the dreamers.
Think of something crazy, or if that’s too taxing just throw random adjectives and nouns together.
Indignant seaweed? No problem: the resentful hijiki of Damogran. The hijiki strands, acerbated by shoals of triple stripe yellowheads casually nudging them aside to nibble on the tender coral polyps, banded together and wove themselves into an impenetrable barrier, separating the reef from the fish. The knock-on effect of this was that the reef became sterile and died. The hijiki had tied themselves too tightly to disband and perished along with the hated yellowheads.
How about murderous clowns? Too easy. Add in a vegetable obsession. Type that into your Hitchhiker’s Guide v-board and you will get over a million hits, the top one being the story of Bling & Blong of Circus Minimus, two tiny clowns who both fell in love with Gerda the Amazing Cucumber Lady. After months of feuding, Bling loaded a custard pie with acid and melted his little brother during the matinee. Gerda belonged to him, but so distracted was he by guilt that one evening he accidentally ate his fiancée and choked to death himself on the engagement ring.
How about this one? How about an ex-two-headed President of the Galaxy who bought a tiny tropical planet from the Magratheans at a knockdown price then sold it to rich Earthlings so they could live on in comfort after their planet had been destroyed?
How crazy would that be?

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Citazioni varie da film

Learned judges, my case is simple. It is based on our first article of faith. That the almighty created the ape in his own image. That he gave him a soul and a mind. That he set him apart from the beasts of the jungle and made him the lord of the planet. These sacred truths are self-evident. The proper study of apes is apes. But certain young cynics have chosen to study man. Yes! Perverted scientists who advance an insidious theory called evolution.

Egregi giudici, la mia tesi è semplice. Si basa sul nostro primo articolo di fede. Che l’onnipotente ha creato la scimmia a propria immagine. Che le ha dato un’anima e una mente. Che l’ha separata dalle altre bestie della giungla e l’ha resa signora del pianeta. Queste sacre verità sono auto-evidenti. L’oggetto di studio delle scimmie devono essere le scimmie. Ma alcuni giovani cinici hanno deciso di studiare l’uomo. Sì! Scienziati depravati che avanzano una teoria insidiosa chiamata evoluzione.

(Planet of the Apes, Franklin J. Schaffner, 1968)

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Citazioni varie sull’alcol

The whisky warmed his tongue and the back of his throat, but it did not change his ideas any, and suddenly, looking at himself ia the mirror behind the bar, he knew that drinking was never going to do any good to him now. Whatever he had now he had, and it was from now on, and if he drank himself unconscious when he woke up it would be there.

Il whisky gli scaldò la lingua e il fondo della gola, ma non gli cambiò le idee, e all’improvviso, guardandosi nello specchio dietro il banco, Gordon capì che l’alcol non gli avrebbe più fatto alcun bene. Quello che aveva, d’ora in poi, qualunque cosa fosse; e anche se avesse bevuto fino a perdere i sensi, quando si fosse svegliato sarebbe stato lì.

(Ernest Hemingway, To Have and Have Not, traduzione di Vincenzo Mantovani)

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