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Monday, January 21, 2013

#Portugal #Wine Sales Rise as Asia, Ex-Colony Demand Grows - Bloomberg

Wine exports from Portugal, including port and table wine, rose 7.6 percent in the first 11 months of 2012 to 648 million euros ($862 million) from the same period a year earlier, according to the country’s National Statistics Institute. The sales are boosted by demand from the former Portuguese colony of Angola, China and some South American countries. 

Read the article online here:
Portugal Wine Sales Rise as Asia, Ex-Colony Demand Grows - Bloomberg

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Documents Illuminate #Jewish Life in Ancient #Muslim Empire - NYTimes.com

The New York Times


January 14, 2013

Illuminating Jewish Life in a Muslim Empire

JERUSALEM — A batch of 1,000-year-old manuscripts from the mountainous northern reaches of war-torn Afghanistan, reportedly found in a cave inhabited by foxes, has revealed previously unknown details about the cultural, economic and religious life of a thriving but little understood Jewish society in a Persian part of the Muslim empire of the 11th century.
The 29 paper pages, now encased in clear plastic and unveiled here this month at the National Library of Israel, are part of a trove of hundreds of documents discovered in the cave whose existence had been known for several years, with photographs circulating among experts. Remarkably well preserved, apparently because of the dry conditions there, the majority of the documents are now said to be in the hands of private dealers in Britain, Switzerland, and possibly the United States and the Middle East.
“This is the first time that we have actual physical evidence of the Jewish life and culture within the Iranian culture of the 11th century,” said Prof. Haggai Ben-Shammai, the library’s academic director. While other historical sources have pointed to the existence of Jewish communities in that area in the early Middle Ages, he said, the documents offer “proof that they were there.”
The texts are known collectively as the Afghan Geniza, a Hebrew term for a repository of sacred texts and objects. They were written in Hebrew, Aramaic, Judeo-Persian, Judeo-Arabic and Arabic, and some used the Babylonian system for vowels, a linguistic assortment that scholars said would have been nearly impossible to forge.
One text includes a discussion of Hebrew words that are spelled the same but have different meanings. Another is a letter between two brothers in which one denied rumors that he was no longer an observant Jew. There are legal and economic documents, some signed by witnesses, recording commercial transactions and debts between Jews and their Muslim neighbors, and other mundane yet illuminating details of daily life like travel plans.
One missive between two Jews, Sheik Abu Nasser Ahmed ibn Daniel and Musa ibn Ishak, dealing with family matters, was written in the Hebrew letters of Judeo-Persian, but had an address in Arabic script on the back, presumably for the benefit of the Muslim messenger. One document has a date from the Islamic calendar corresponding to the year 1006.
The most important religious text among those acquired by the National Library is a fragment of a Judeo-Persian version of a commentary on the Book of Isaiah originally written by the renowned Babylonian rabbinic scholar Saadia Gaon, a previously unknown text. A sliver of it has been sent to the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot for carbon dating.
The exact source of the documents is murky. The manuscripts are said to have come from a remote area near the borders of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, wild terrain largely controlled by warlords. Jews probably migrated there in the early Middle Ages to engage in commerce along the Silk Road, the important trade route linking China and Europe.
Scholars say the texts were probably found several years ago and have been sold and scattered around the globe. An Israeli antiquities dealer obtained 29 of the texts and, after a year of negotiation, sold them several weeks ago to the library for an undisclosed sum.
People involved in the purchase refused to give exact details, but they said the library ended up paying an affordable price of several thousand dollars per text. Professor Ben-Shammai said that despite the “very exaggerated prices” demanded by dealers abroad, the Jerusalem dealer did not want the documents to end up in private hands.
The National Library would like to gather the entire collection under one roof, but the current asking prices for the remaining texts add up to many millions of dollars.
Prof. Shaul Shaked, an expert in Iranian culture at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said that dealers abroad had asked his opinion of the documents, and that he was one of the first who recognized their importance. “So in a way I am guilty of having driven up the prices,” he said.
Aviad Stollman, the curator of the library’s Judaica collection, said that the library was looking for a donor to buy the rest of the collection.
The acquisition comes as the National Library is in the midst of transformation, separating from a merger with Hebrew University, moving off campus and digitizing its vast collection. Founded in 1892 with the goal of gathering the intellectual heirlooms of a widely dispersed Jewish people, the library counts among its prized possessions two volumes of Maimonides’s Commentary on the Mishna, Isaac Newton’s manuscripts, a 15th-century Persian Koran illuminated in gold and lapis lazuli, and a notebook in which Franz Kafka practiced Hebrew vocabulary.
The 29 Afghan pages will join those texts and, once scanned, complete their journey from a dark cave to the glow of the world’s computer screens. The goal is to build a digital platform that would make the manuscripts widely accessible, with translations and explanations available online.
“This tells the story of the Jewish people,” Mr. Stollman said. “The technology is here. You can make it come alive.”
Documents Illuminate Jewish Life in Ancient Muslim Empire - NYTimes.com


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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Holland vs the Netherlands - YouTube


Everything you always wanted to know...
Holland vs the Netherlands - YouTube



Monday, January 14, 2013

Deconstructing a prestigious name #Bauhaus

Numerous companies have christened themselves Bauhaus over the years


From The International Herald Tribune:

Deconstructing a prestigious name


BY ALICE RAWSTHORN

LONDON — When a friend from Manchester landed in Berlin with time to spare before a meeting, he asked a taxi driver to take him to the Bauhaus museum. Instead of being deposited outside the Bauhaus Archive, which is dedicated to the early 20th-century German art and design school, my friend was astonished when the taxi stopped at an enormous D.I.Y. superstore.

Perhaps his request was lost in translation, but the driver had mistaken the name of the archive for that of the Bauhaus retail group. The error was understandable, because hundreds of organizations have chosen the name Bauhaus: from a Hong Kong furniture store and a solar energy conference in Frankfurt, to a Madrid investment bank and a hostel in the Belgian city of Bruges. There is also the Bauhaus University in Weimar, the city where the school originated, and one of the first gothic rock groups was dubbed Bauhaus.

Every so often, there have been legal ructions over the name. The biggest battle was in 1972 when the Bauhaus Archive tried to force the retail giant to drop the name, but failed. A new argument has erupted over the latter's recent efforts to compel ''My Bauhaus is better than yours,'' a small Berlin company selling conceptual work by young designers, to change its name. Its legal assault succeeded, but has triggered a feisty debate over the ownership of one of the most important names in design history.

To any design enthusiast, the word Bauhaus means one thing: the art and design school founded by the architect Walter Gropius in Weimar in 1919. The Bauhaus moved to a bespoke building in the city of Dessau in 1925, and then to Berlin, where the Nazis forced it to close in 1933. By then, it was famed as a bastion of the modern movement, whose approach to arts education had been imitated all over the world.

Many of the most important figures in 20th-century art and design taught or studied there: Gropius and Mies van der Rohe in architecture; Josef Albers, Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee in painting; Laszlo Moholy-Nagy and Herbert Bayer in communications; Anni Albers and Gunta Stölzl in textiles; and Marianne Brandt, Marcel Breuer and Wilhelm Wagenfeld in product design. No wonder so many people have wished to be associated with it.

The name Bauhaus was chosen by Gropius in 1919. The previous year, he had written to a friend, the museum director Karl Ernst Osthaus, explaining that he was thinking of starting a new school, which he described as a ''Bauhütte,'' or a medieval Masonic workshop. Soon afterward, Gropius was invited to become director of the Academy of Fine Art in Weimar, and insisted on merging it with the nearby School of Arts and Crafts and adding an architecture department. On March 20, 1919, he made a formal request for the new school to be named the Staatliches Bauhaus in Weimar.

''Staatliches,'' or ''state,'' was only ever used for official purposes, and Gropius is thought to have invented Bauhaus, which combines the German words for 'build'' and ''house'' as a more modern version of Bauhütte, stripped of its Masonic origins. His choice of a short, distinctive name, easily pronounceable by foreigners, helped to raise awareness of the Bauhaus worldwide. By 1924, it was so well known that Gropius registered Bauhaus as a company to generate income for the school by selling the students' work.

Gropius left the Bauhaus in 1928, and its last director, Mies Van Der Rohe, took the painful decision to close the school in 1933 under intense political pressure. No one could have anticipated how famous the Bauhaus would become as its alumni fled Nazi Germany to seek refuge in different countries, where many of them assumed important academic posts, including Gropius, who perpetuated the school's memory from his new power base at Harvard University, helped by Philip Johnson, an influential curator at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

As the Bauhaus's posthumous reputation rose, so did the value of its name, especially to anyone likely to benefit from being linked to design, modernity or creativity. Legally, the name was up for grabs, because of the haste with which the school had closed and the political confusion in post-war Germany, where the Bauhaus buildings in the eastern cities of Weimar and Dessau were on the opposite side of the Iron Curtain to the Bauhaus Archive, which opened in Darmstadt in 1960, and moved to a building designed by Gropius in West Berlin in 1971.

Numerous companies have christened themselves Bauhaus over the years, the most prominent being the retail group, which began with one store in 1960 and now owns 190 stores across Europe selling furniture and garden products as well as hardware. It trademarked the name during the 1960s and has taken legal action to protect it. Even so, it is puzzling as to why it targeted the tiny My Bauhaus, which has three employees and whose choice of name was clearly ironic, when there are so many bigger businesses called Bauhaus.

Set up by a bunch of design students from Bauhaus University in 2009, My Bauhaus, now called New Tendency, holds exhibitions of conceptual design and sells small editions of furniture and objects. ''When we received the first legal letter last spring, we believed it was a joke,'' said Manuel Goller, one of its co-founder. ''But a second letter arrived in the autumn. We couldn't afford a lawsuit, so we have changed our name. How is it possible that a hardware store controls the name of the most important art and design movement of the 20th century?''

Similar questions are being posed by the German media and by design historians concerned that young Europeans will grow up associating Bauhaus with D.I.Y. superstores, not with a visionary design school. Judging by the number of calls to the Bauhaus Foundation in Dessau requesting advice on home repair, some people already do. 


Friday, January 11, 2013

Jorge #Selaron found dead on the staircase he decorated in #Brazil

The painter who turned the 215 steps into a kaleidoscope of brightly hued tiles from all over the world, into a rambunctious “tribute to the Brazilian people,” was found dead on the very staircase.

Jorge Selaron found dead on the staircase he decorated in Brazil | World | News | National Post


Associated Press | Jan 10, 2013 5:55 PM ET
More from Associated Press
The candy-colored steps of a staircase in Rio’s bohemian neighborhood of Lapa were the life work of Chilean artist Jorge Selaron, and a symbol of his adopted city. On this gray, rainy Thursday, they became his memorial.
The painter who turned the 215 steps into a kaleidoscope of brightly hued tiles from all over the world, transforming a dingy, urine-scented alley and stairs into a rambunctious “tribute to the Brazilian people,” was found dead on the very staircase.
Rio de Janeiro police found his body front of his house, one of the humble colonials that face the staircase as it ascends into the St. Teresa Convent above. Visitors dropped flowers and tried to light candles in the blustery weather on his doorstep.
Investigators would not disclose the cause of death but are not discarding murder. Calls for additional comment from police were not promptly returned.
Meanwhile, neighbors, friends and strangers are in shock over the death of a man who may have been born abroad, but whose open, carefree manner and riotous use of colour came to represent the best of Rio. In 2005, the staircase became a city landmark and the artist was declared an honorary Carioca, or Rio resident.
“We can speak of Lapa before and after Selaron. He changed the face of Rio. His death is something brutish, that makes no sense,” said Jocimar Batista de Jesus, aka Mestre Duda Pirata, a capoeira master who also lives along the steps and shared many a beer with the artist over decades.
The staircase project began in 1990, when Selaron began tiling the steps and collecting old porcelain bathtubs to use as planters along the sides.
As it grew, people began to contribute, to send him tiles, to bring them to Rio when they came to visit
“He had no resources, no support from the city,” said Jesus. “The neighbors helped as they could. I brought him tiles from my trips, from Spain, Holland, as I traveled. As it grew, people began to contribute, to send him tiles, to bring them to Rio when they came to visit.”
Crowded in a corner are tiles showing a woman in traditional dress from Minho, Portugal, next to a Buddha in seated lotus position, next to a depiction of St. Jorge slaying a dragon. A few steps ahead, Indian deities fan out around a tile representing the principal sites of Berlin. Further up are tiles showing Bob Marley, antique French tiles, and others with flowing Arabic calligraphy, all flanked by the flaming red and eye-popping yellow Selaron chose as the dominant colors.
The artist himself, unmistakable with his bushy mutton chop mustache, was always around, said tour guide Alejandro Martin Barreira.
Often attired in the quintessential carioca outfit of flip-flops and board shorts, and outgoing to the point of offering to take pictures with tourists even before they asked, Selaron was a local character as picturesque and well-loved as his work.
He’d make a little money selling other paintings to people visiting the steps.
“Here in Lapa everyone knew him; he was the face of this bohemian, artistic neighborhood,” said Barreira. “He was simple man, who loved this life, sitting here, watching the kids play, chatting people up.”
A mysterious image that pops up in all of Selaron’s work — a hugely pregnant black woman, often shown holding a fish — makes appearances throughout, some of them discreet, some monumental. In one painting that takes over several tiles, Selaron gives himself, mutton chops and all, the same pregnant belly and prominent breasts, along with a sign that says, “Brazil, I love you.”
The artist introduces the character to visitors in his own words, painted, of course, on tile: “On the 7th of December of 1999, I was moved to tears,” he wrote. “All that was needed was for me to paint the pregnant woman who is in all my paintings.”
He never reveals who she was, writing only it is a personal matter. With that last touch, he ran out of room. So he started substituting the tiles, he explained, turning the staircase into a fluid, evolving piece, perennially changing to reflect the interests, origins or obsessions of contributors, with Selaron first among them.
The staircase that was born of this “great folly,” as he writes in a tile, is full of stories, notes, poignant mementos of those who pass by and leave something of themselves.
In one, Selaron thanks a friend for helping out with the tiling. Elsewhere, proud mother Jandira announces the birth of her son Bruno. In one tile, Selaron apologizes to his landlady, Dona Elena, for having neglected to pay rent during the years he spent working on the staircase.
“I hope you understand,” he pleads in a piece decorated with the omnipresent pregnant woman.
Selaron meant the work to last a lifetime.
“I will only end this mad and singular dream on the last day of my life,” he wrote on the wall.
Several steps above, an anonymous contributor answered, in simple handwriting on a plain tile painted in the green and yellow of the Brazilian flag: “Obrigado, Selaron.”
“Thank you, Selaron.”


Jorge Selaron found dead on the staircase he decorated in Brazil | World | News | National Post

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