Poetry and dialog in Spain’s crisis

Upon waking one morning from uneasy dreams, Luis García Montero found himself transformed into a wine glass. He’s immobile, trapped, an object of derision by the dishware around him, the last of his kind (the last piece from his grandparents’ crystal set). His wife doesn’t recognize him and shoves him into the dishwasher with other dirty dishes.

Like Kafka’s Gregor Samsa in the classic “Metamorphosis”, the character Luis García Montero is transformed overnight and plunged into a world of alienation and confusion; he’s a thing not a person and he’s lost forever his connection to history, community, values and dialogue. He’s a forgotten thing. He is Spain.

“Bankers count their profits, politicians their votes, poets their things,” Luis García Montero the Spanish poet writes in his introduction to this lovely volume of poetry in prose, “A form of resistance (Reasons for not throwing things away).” In it, he captures the mood of Spain in its deepest crisis since return to democracy: confused, alienated, fearful and sometimes bemused by the debt, joblessness, foreclosures, and political uncertainty that seemingly overnight transformed the nation that was so recently flush with success.

Just under a quarter of Spaniards today are jobless, the highest rate since the years of Franco dictatorship. A government austerity plan doesn’t seem to be helping economic recovery and increases the pain for many citizens who are losing benefits.

There are those who worry about the strength of institutions in Spain’s still young democracy amid this crisis. It is important to be able to openly discuss and debate the issues and actions of the powerful whether they are banks, government or media. Fortunately Spain has a long history of great poets and novelists who capture and communicate the Spanish experience.

Federico García Lorca and Miguel Hernandez were among the voices recording Civil War Spain. The singer/song-writer Joan Manuel Serrat has been consistently one of the voices of Spain’s transition to democracy. Poet, professor and columnist Luis García Montero is another.

Chapter by chapter In “Una forma de resistencia,” García Montero uses delicious irony, humor and humanity to detail the life and meaning in “the things” that constitute his life, his happiness, his history.

His chapters are titled simply but dig deep into complex feelings and connections. “Mirrors” “ Pens” “Glasses” “Refrigerator” are charming glimpses into the poet’s own life and thought processes but also thread through themes on history, politics, popular culture, and day to day life. The personal vignettes reflect the larger mood of a people facing national crisis and trying to understand how they got there and how to get out, making personal connections to the past in order to understand the future.

In “The glass” the Kafkaesque character Luis García Montero, who has become a wine glass, struggles to adapt to his new status and is about to chat with his fellow dirty dishes on the table on the morning after the dinner party. But the effort abruptly ends when his wife’s sleepy morning cleanup sweeps him into the dishwasher. The poem ends with “In Luis’s head, there tumbling the intuition of a conversation silenced.”

That would be the worst fate for Spain, silencing the debates and the conversations, the struggle to understand what has happened and to agree how to fix it.

This book is published in Spanish only. You can buy it online here: http://www.casadellibro.com/libro-una-forma-de-resistencia/9788420400365/1986333

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Change and the future at Harvard and the Nieman Foundation

The Nieman Foundation at Harvard University is living a defining moment. The current curator, Bob Giles, will retire in June 2011 after 10 years leading the most prestigious journalism fellowship in the United States.

The selection of the next curator, now under way, takes place amidst a technology-driven revolution in the media industry that is changing the very nature of journalism and how it is produced, distributed and paid for.

What kind of leader does the Nieman Foundation need for this exciting but challenging future?

I was a Nieman Fellow in 1994 and have served on the Nieman Advisory Board for the last three years so I have been thinking hard about this important transition for the Foundation.

In November, I met Harvard President Drew Faust in London and heard her speak about her vision for Harvard’s future. There was much about her words that resonated for the Nieman Foundation as well. It inspired me to think and write about how the two are tied together. The result is below.

Breaking down walls, leading important conversations

The Nieman Foundation should “… promote and elevate the standards of journalism and educate persons deemed especially qualified for journalism.” Agnes Wahl Nieman, the Nieman Foundation directive, 1937.

“One of the changing aspects of Harvard University today is breaking down boundaries, breaking down walls …. What we are seeking is extraordinary distributed excellence.” Drew Faust, Harvard UK Alumni Club address, London, November 22, 2010.

Seventy-three years apart two extraordinary women lobbied for change that has the potential to profoundly affect the quality of information free societies use to govern themselves.

Agnes Wahl Nieman lived in a time when journalism in the United States was mostly practiced by white men with journeyman educations and freedom of the press belonged mostly to those who could afford to own one. Inspired by her husband, Milwaukee Journal publisher Lucius Nieman, she left in her will $1 million for the betterment of the news industry in the United States.

In the Nieman Foundation directive, she imagined a future in which the journalism industry, in partnership with America’s premier university, would be elevated from within by removing the barriers for the best journalism practitioners to get access to the best university education.

At the time, Harvard president James Bryant Conan called it “a very dubious experiment.” Mrs. Nieman, however, in bequeathing the grant to Harvard made a connection that others missed. She saw that breaking down barriers to high quality education for tradesmen journalists could have a positive influence on the quality of our government, society and lives.

The program has been an extraordinary success. Six decades of Nieman fellows carry with them the knowledge, inspiration, wisdom, personal connections and dedication to an informed citizenry they gained or refined during their year at Harvard. Many former fellows lead major news organizations. Others have important positions in industry, commerce and government. One fellow, Juan Manuel Santos, NF ’88, of Colombia, was recently elected president of his country.

Though mostly led by newspapermen, the Nieman mission has never been about newspapers themselves. It is about improving the process by which citizens are fully empowered with the information they need to effectively government themselves.

In the last decade, however, a technological revolution more profound than any the world has seen since the printing press and the Gutenberg Bible has changed everything, including the role and mission of the Nieman Foundation at Harvard.

The tools of publication, once limited to wealthy individuals and businesses, are now cheap or free and in the hands of millions of newly-empowered citizen story-tellers. The barriers to freedom of the press are obliterated, as today anyone with a mobile phone and a Twitter or Facebook account has the potential ability to reach millions with information.

This revolution affects every area of modern life: media, education, science, commerce, politics, government and the law. It is at once exhilarating and frightening. It is an important opportunity for leadership.

Drew Gilpin Faust, Harvard’s first woman president, spoke in London in November to a gathering of Harvard alumni. Change was on her mind. Like Mrs. Nieman, President Faust said her focus for Harvard is on breaking down walls. “Knowledge, talent and innovation have no borders. How can we expand and excel in providing access to information and knowledge?” she said.

She targeted three specific areas for change, where opening doors and breaking down walls will make a difference. All three directly relate to the impending change of leadership at the Nieman Foundation.

1.Boundaries of access

The challenge, Faust said, is to attract and support the very best and brightest students. For Harvard undergrads, she targeted barriers to access of financial aid.

The Nieman Foundation has its own crisis of access. It is much more complex than just money.

The traditional newspaper industry is collapsing. Newspaper and broadcast journalists can’t afford to take a year off or their struggling companies won’t let them. A new news environment is rising in its place but the emerging digital practitioners have their own barriers to participating in a fellowship. This new environment incubates individual reporter/writer/bloggers. Its practitioners operate small community online sites or web-only niche publications on everything from health to transportation infrastructure. They are geeks who crunch government data and clean it up for other to analyze and report. They are a new tribe of video story-tellers who post their work on YouTube under Creative Commons license and encourage others to use and share it.

Some of the most innovative, exciting work in journalism today is happening in pockets around the country and the world in what NYU professor Jay Rosen calls “acts of journalism” and in small entrepreneurial operations. These are some of the people who would benefit most from a year at Harvard, and would do much to enrich and diversify the Nieman program.

But there are barriers for these new digital journalists to win a fellowship, or even apply. Most can’t afford to take time off, many have never heard of the Nieman Foundation because they are outside traditional journalism, and some would struggle to define themselves as fulltime journalists.

Just as Agnes Wahl Nieman won access to Harvard for the tradesmen journalists of the 1930s and 40s, today we must work to “expand access to information and knowledge” to a new generation of journalists and others committing acts of journalism for the public good.

2. Boundaries between Harvard schools and fields:

Citing the changing nature of knowledge, President Faust told UK Harvard alumni it makes sense to develop joint degrees, such as educational leadership, with the schools of education, business school, or global health in combination with government and policy at the Kennedy School.

Nieman Fellows can study at any school they wish. But there is also potential for fruitful, stronger bonds between the Nieman Foundation and the Law School, MIT, the Business School and the School of Public Health, for example.

As traditional economic models for news fade, new models are emerging. They include non-profit funding, targeted search advertising, brand sponsorships, and paid content. Journalism schools are incorporating entrepreneurship courses to help the new generation of digital journalists find innovative ways of funding their work.

The Nieman Foundation is not a trade school. Fellows enjoy what is possibly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of freedom to pursue knowledge for its own sake across a variety of disciplines.

But we live in a world where proficiency in the use of new digital tools and social media platforms define the journalist’s ability to make his/her stories heard.

We must break down the walls that limit the opportunity for fellows to learn new skills during their Nieman year.

3.Boundaries between the university and the world:

“Knowledge, talent and innovation have no borders. Any educated person must have international experience,” Drew Gilpin Faust told UK Harvard alumni in London. Harvard, she said, must continue to grow its role in the world community in part through ensuring all students have international experience.

The Nieman Foundation has long integrated leading international journalists into the program.

But the Foundation has little or no voice or profile outside of the United States.

Meanwhile, each year in Davos, Switzerland the world’s elite thinkers gather at the World Economic Forum to discuss change and the future. Leaders who have had the most profound impact on journalism are always there. They include Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, and Apple CEO Steven Jobs, creator of the iPhone and iPad. The work that these people have done has changed the media industry in extraordinary and still unforeseeable ways.

The Davos forum is hugely influential. It attracts the biggest players and panels are covered by legions of traditional and non-traditional journalists. But its real impact lies in its focus on creating a digital community and conversation that extends the work being done face-to-face in Davos. Seminars are live-streamed on the web. Citizens from anywhere in the world can follow the conversation and participate by asking questions on Twitter.

These same kinds of discussions with equally important people happen all the time at Lippmann House. But the world doesn’t hear. And there is no larger digital community to join the discussion.

Chris Anderson started his career as a journalist and print magazine publisher. Today he is the curator of TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design), a series of conferences he defines as “ideas worth spreading” in “riveting talks by remarkable people, free to the world.” These talks are video recorded, webcast live and archived online. And they are part of an ongoing digital conversation by participants and viewers.

TED viewers get to rate the speakers they watch. TED has created a community around its brand. Chris Anderson curates, shaping the discussion but not getting in its way. The conversation is focused on people, and augmented by technology.

The Nieman Foundation is very strong on people, knowledge and expertise, but needs to take a big step forward to embrace the technology that will allow it to become a voice in the global conversation.

The Future

Inspired by President Faust’s words to UK Harvard alumni, I compiled what might be called a Nieman Foundation manifesto for the future.

  • The Nieman Fellows, current and past, are the heart, soul and voice of the institution.  Strengthening the Fellows community and voice must be a key goal.
  • Clarify the role of the curator in the digital age. Journalism today is a conversation. It involves surfacing of data and facts, followed by an ongoing analysis, revision and exploration of the data and facts by a community that includes professionally trained journalists and topic experts. The Nieman Foundation curator must lead that conversation and provide context for it, through the fellows and the resources available at Harvard.
  • Openness and transparency and inclusiveness. The Nieman Foundation can grow in influence if it opens up more to the world. Fellows should have the opportunity to participate in Foundation activities, like the Nieman Reports and the Nieman Lab. The Advisory Board should be given greater voice and responsibility. Decision-making should become more transparent.
  • Build new, non-traditional partnerships inside and outside of Harvard.
  • Find ways to include new kinds of journalism practitioners.

I applaud Harvard and Bob Giles for great transparency and inclusiveness in the search for the next Nieman leader.  http://bit.ly/gaUhmA. The names of the search committee were made public (listed below) and anyone who is interested is invited to nominate a worthy candidate by emailing nieman_search@harvard.edu.

This is the criteria I think is the most important.

The new curator is a former Nieman Fellow. This is a guarantee of excellence in the practice of journalism, a built-in understanding of the Foundation’s history and dedication to the program.

The new curator has a detailed plan to ensure the Nieman Foundation can lead the global conversation about the practice and future of journalism.

The new curator has expertise in digital publishing and deep knowledge of its impact on traditional news organizations.

The new curator has experience and credibility as a traditional journalist who can bridge the gap between traditional and digital practitioners.

The new curator will ensure the Nieman Fellows and alumni are the heart and soul of the program and help guide and lead the foundation in its mission and goals.

The new curator is an experienced, dynamic and inclusive leader and communicator.

The new curator has a strong understanding and experience of the economics of media and publishing, especially the impact of changing economic models on the industry today.

The new curator has experience with academia, charitable foundations and non-profit administration.

The new curator has global experience and connections.

This is one of the most exciting times to be a journalist in modern history. But the challenges are daunting. What happens next at the Nieman Foundation matters as journalists around the world grapple with the change.

The Nieman Foundation curator search committee

  • Steven Hyman – Provost; Professor of Neurobiology, Harvard Medical School
  • Caroline Elkins, Professor of History; Chair of the Standing Committee on African Studies, Faculty of Arts and Sciences
  • David Gergen – Professor of Public Service, Director of the Center for Public Leadership, Harvard Kennedy School
  • Gwen Ifill – Moderator, Washington Week in Review and Senior Correspondent, The PBS NewsHour
  • Louis Menand  – Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of English, Faculty of Arts and Sciences
  • William O. Wheatley, Jr. – Retired Executive Vice President, NBC News; President of the Nieman Advisory Board.

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ONAUK Gadget Night – Your guide and links to the gadgets

By popular demand, below please find the full list of gadgets and goodies that were demoed at our ONAUK Gadget Night, December 14, 2010 at MSN UK offices in London. Follow @onauk and @ONAUK/onauk to continue the conversation. Here are some of the photos from that night. http://www.flickr.com/photos/onauk/sets/72157625477241139/

Tom Cranstoun, (twitter @ddttom)


The star of the evening: the flying helicopter/camera Parrot Ar.drone. The device, yes it really flies – has two cameras (one front facing, one downwards) controlled by the accompanying iPhone app. (http://ardrone.parrot.com/parrot-ar-drone/usa/how-does-it-work)

Pico HDMI projector (pocket battery operated LCD Projector) that connects to the iPhone, projects video images onto surfaces such as your wall for group viewing.  (http://www.maplin.co.uk/Module.aspx?ModuleNo=415688)

Portable projection screen (http://www.projectorshop24.co.uk/table-top-screens/table-top-screens_celexon-table-top-screen-81-x-61cm_1.html. Same idea

Livescribe digital pen (http://www.livescribe.com). It records audio and also records what you write. So reporters have a record of the voice of the interview and a digital record of the notes.

Apple TV, linked with iPad both with IOS4.2 (latest operating system) gives airplay video sharing between devices (www.apple.com)

Google TV by Logitech (http://www.logitech.com) (http://www.logitech.com/en-us/smartTV/revue)

‘Viewsonic Viewpad 10’ tablet with Windows 7 ultimate edition. (http://www.viewsoniceurope.com/uk/products/viewpad/)

‘Samsung Galaxy Tab’ tablet (http://www.samsung.com/uk/galaxytab/)

Steven Wilson-Beales, Entertainment Content Manager, MSN UK (twitter @stevewb)

Steve’ showed us his video report on learning to surf in Cornwall, shot on the WP7 and edited on Windows Movie Maker. http://him.uk.msn.com/time-off/articles.aspx?cp-documentid=155235833



Paul Brannan, Editor Emerging Platforms BBC.co.uk. (twitter @paulbrannan)

Over the ear digital camera with iPhone app connection. http://www.looxcie.com/

Fisheye, macro and wide-angle photo lenses for iPhone. http://photojojo.com/store/awesomeness/cell-phone-lenses/

The Owle Bubo, a stabilizer frame for taking pictures with the iPhone http://www.wantowle.com/.

The Vericorder digital video editing apps and the Vericorder mini-mic for iPhones. http://www.vericorder.com/products

Lorna Garrett, LiveU, 3G Mobile Uplink System (twitter @garlandpartners) http://www.gpl-uk.co.uk/LiveU_Applications.htm


In use by the BBC and other media groups, the LiveU kit allows reporters to live stream events to their websites from the front lines of action using available 3G networks.  Lorna gave us a live demo at gadget night. It was very impressive!

And finally:

My colleagues in the Microsoft Xbox Live group kindly let us play the Adventures game on the Kinect in our Customer Experience Centre. http://www.amazon.com/Kinect-Sensor-Adventures-Xbox-360/dp/B002BSA298. Lots of giggles!

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Return to Sao Paulo for the ONA and Brazil’s digital news community

It’s been 17 years. That’s a long time and it’s my excuse for the poor state of my Portuguese. In the early 1990’s I was chief correspondent for Reuters in Brazil, based in Sao Paulo, for three years. I left in 1993 to spend a year at Harvard as a Nieman Fellow and haven’t been back to Sao Paulo since.

I’m returning later this week to attend a digital journalism conference that has as it’s mission  supporting Brazilian digital journalists in creating a new online news professional organization.  

The event is sponsored by the Knight Foundation for Journalism in the Americas and supported by Faculdade Casper Libero in Sao Paulo and by the Online News Association.

I’ll be doing brief presentations on two topics.  As an MSN UK editor, I’ll show some cool digital story-telling tools called Photosynth and Silverlight. As a leader of the Online News Association, I’ll be there to throw ONA moral support and help to our new Brazilian friends.

There will be much tweeting and possibly even a live stream of the event on Saturday, May 29, which features global and Brazilian speakers. The program is below.

In 1993, Sao Paulo was one of the world’s largest cities. I wanted to get a look at how it has changed since then, so I searched on Photosynth.net and found someone posted this great 360 view of the city.  Bigger even?


I Seminário Internacional de Jornalismo Online

Organizado pelo Centro Knight para o Jornalismo nas Américas

da Universidade do Texas em Austin (EUA),

Grupo de Pesquisa Tecnologia, Comunicação e Cultura de Rede

do Programa de Pós-graduação da Faculdade Cásper Líbero e pela


29 de maio de 2010

9h às 18h

Auditório Aloísio BiondI – Faculdade Cásper Líbero

Avenida Paulista, 900, 5º Andar – São Paulo – SP


9h – 9h15: Abertura

· Dr. Dimas Künsch, coordenador da Pós-Graduação, Faculdade Cásper Líbero

· Rosental Calmon Alves, diretor, Centro Knight para o Jornalismo nas Américas, Universidade do Texas em Austin

· Angela Pimenta, editora, Revista Exame; e co-diretora para o Brasil do Comitê Internacional, Online News Association (ONA), Estados Unidos

9h15 – 10h45: Painel

A notícia a partir de bases de dados que permitem ao leitor interagir com grandes volumes de informação

Moderadora: Tereza Rangel, diretora de planejamento, UOL

Jornalismo Interativo no New York Times”, apresentação de Andrei Scheinkman, programador de aplicativos jornalísticos, New York Times


Pedro Valente, jornalista e programador, responsável pelo Yahoo Open Hack Day

– Dr. Walter Lima, professor da pós-graduação em Comunicação, Fundação Cásper Líbero; coordenador da Rede JorTec da SBPjor; e pesquisador do Núcleo de Ciência Cognitiva da USP

Rubens Almeida, diretor de integração e especialista em bases de dados e georeferenciamento, iG

10h45 – 11h Coffee break

11h – 12h30: Painel

Algoritmos, robôs, curadoria, notícias geradas pelo público: novas fórmulas para o jornalismo online

Moderadora: Dra. Elizabeth Saad, professora titular e pesquisadora, ECA-USP

Jornalistas + leitores + algoritmos = meio de comunicação”, apresentação especial de Mario Tascón, diretor e fundador de LaInformacion.com e DIXIRed e ex-diretor de conteúdo de Prisacom e ElPais.com, Madri, Espanha (via videoconferência).


Ana Brambilla, editora de Mídias Sociais do Terra Networks

David Butter, editor de sumplementos e interatividade, G1

Ricardo Feltrin, secretário de redação, Folha Online

12h30 – 14h Almoço (Lista de restaurantes na área será fornecida)

14h – 15h30: Painel

Desafios e oportunidades para o jornalismo nas emergentes plataformas digitais móveis

Moderadora: Dra. Caru Schwingel, professora e pesquisadora, Universidade Anhembi Morumbi

A tecnologia móvel agora e no futuro”,  apresentação especial de Paul Brannan, editor de plataformas emergentes da BBC News, Londres, Reino Unido


Cilene Guedes, cordenadora de mobilidade/plataformas digitais, O Globo

Sandra Carvalho, diretora de redação da revista Info-Exame e diretora do Portal Exame

Fernando Firmino, professor, Universidade Estadual da Paraíba (UEPB); e doutorando, Universidade Federal da Bahia (UFBA)

15h30 – 15h45 Coffee break

15:45 – 17:15: Painel

A evolução da narrativa jornalística na Web

Moderadora: Pedro Doria, editor de conteúdos digitais, Estadão

Ferramentas para a narrativa digital”, apresentação de Katie King, gerente sênior de produtos, para portais e parcerias, MSN UK, Londres, Reino Unido; e diretora da Online News Association (Estados Unidos)


Juliana Melo, editora-assistente do JCOnline, Jornal do Comércio (Recife)

Alberto Cairo, editor de multimídia e infografia, Editora Globo

Daniel Jelin, editor, Veja.com

Pedro Dias Lopes, editor-chefe de Zerohora.com e ClicRBS

17h15 – 18h: Sessão final

Discussão sobre a formação de uma associação de jornalistas online no Brasil e a experiência da Online News Association nos Estados Unidos

· Moderadora: Angela Pimenta, editora, Revista Exame; e co-diretora para o Brasil do Comitê Internacional da Online News Association (ONA), dos Estados Unidos


· Katie King, gerente sênior de produtos, para portais e parcerias, MSN UK, Londres, Reino Unido; integrante da diretoria da ONA e de seu comitê internacional.

. Fernando Rodrigues, presidente da Associação Brasileira de Jornalismo Investigativo (ABRAJI)

· Rosental Calmon Alves, diretor, Centro Knight para o Jornalismo nas Américas, Universidade do Texas em Austin

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#Ashtag – UK no-fly crisis a tipping point?

One of my most vivid memories of 9/11 was not the black smoke billowing up from the Pentagon a few miles to the north of my house. What still haunts me from that day and those immediately following was how perfectly blue, cloudless and empty was the sky above Washington DC.  Empty of airplanes.

I lived just under the flight path to Reagan National Airport on the Potomac River. Except for a few hours overnight, the roar of jet engines sounded every few minutes over my house. You get used to it. It’s normal, reliable, consistent. When it disappears the silence is lovely – but weird.

Reagan National was closed for a number of days after 9/11 and because of the circumstances, it was weird and frightening. The empty blue sky that should have been glorious was somehow ominous.

Fast forward nine years to my current home in West London, once again, ironically under a flight path this time to Heathrow Airport, hub to global air travel and some of the biggest, loudest jetliners in the world.

For four days now, Heathrow’s been closed, along with the rest of the UK’s airports. This is not a man-made terror crisis. It’s mother nature. A plume of corrosive ash is wafting over the UK from the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland.

Out here in the west of the city, we can’t see any ash and we’ve been loving the quiet of the no-fly decree. Spring is finally here after a long cold rainy winter and this week the sky is blue, cloudless – and completely empty of airplanes. It’s weird. The sky looks so big. Tweeters and bloggers, including me , are commenting and posting pictures of our blue empty sky.


Technorati Tags: ,,

But it’s not ominous, like 9/11. Is it?

Or are we on the cusp of a slow-motion disaster – and an opportunity – that we are just being slow to awake to?

Eyjafjallajökull could keep erupting for months. The global economy is dependant on air travel. What is the impact on the island nation of Great Britain of an extended ban on air transportation?

Thousands of Britons are stranded overseas. Thousands of non-Brits are stuck here.

British agriculture and industry can’t export their goods.

Businesses dependent on imports – food, autos, industry – can’t get orders delivered.

Meanwhile, the three parties vying for power in the UK national elections to be held on May 6 seem to be ignoring the ash crisis, even though it is the burning issue in the blogosphere and twitterverse.

In the days since the UK’s airspace was closed, none of them have grasped it as a campaign issue. Prime Minister Gordon Brown has addressed it only as the leader of government, saying he is working to get the airspace opened again “as soon as possible.”

But what if this is this a tipping point for global commerce and for transportation technology?

Will a prolonged hit to our ability to use air travel spur the invention of new ways to travel? Faster oceanic cargo delivery maybe? Sub-space travel the goes up and over the normal 18,000 to 33,000 foot jet highways? A return to greater use of rail? More tunnels like the Chunnel?

And the global economy. Will the “buy local” movement become a necessity and not an option any more?

The BBC today has a nice piece on how volcanic activity has had history-making impact in the past.

Beyond that not much is being said this beautiful spring weekend about the long term impact of the ash crisis. Perhaps it will blow over while we are enjoying these beautiful quiet empty skies.

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“Last night as I was sleeping”

For pleasure, I translate Spanish poetry to English.

Antonio Machado is one of my favorites and this is my translation of one of his most famous poems.

If you search online, the most easily found translation of this particular Machado poem is probably the one by Robert Bly, which is nice, but sacrifices rhyme for his interpretation of the meaning. Bly’s book of Machado translations is on Google Books and you can read both the original and his translation.

I like my version because it takes a stab at the rhyme but also surfaces the spiritual tone. Machado was deeply religious and in this poem he is writing is about God and redemption.

There is also a lovely version by Willis Barnstone but you have to buy his book to read it!


Last night as I was sleeping” by Antonio Machado

Translated to the English by Katie King /Copyright 2010 all rights reserved

Last night as I was sleeping

– blessed vision! – I dreamt

of a fountain that was rippling

deep within my heart.

Tell me, what is this hidden aquifer,

water, flowing up to me,

spring of new life

which never before did I drink?


Last night as I was sleeping

– blessed vision! – I dreamt

of a beehive that was nesting

deep within my heart;

and the golden bees

inside it,

from old bitterness weave

pure white comb and honey sweet.


Last night as I was sleeping

– blessed vision! – I dreamt

that a brilliant sun was burning,

deep within my heart.

It was brilliant because it lent

the warmth of home aglow,

and it was sun because it showed the light

and because it made the teardrops flow.


Last night as I was sleeping

– blessed vision! – I dreamt

that it was God that I had glowing

deep within my heart.


And the original:

Anoche cuando dormía – Antonio Machado

    Anoche cuando dormía

soñé ¡bendita ilusión!

que una fontana fluía

dentro de mi corazón.

Dí: ¿por qué acequia escondida,

agua, vienes hasta mí,

manantial de nueva vida

en donde nunca bebí?


  Anoche cuando dormía

soñé ¡bendita ilusión!

que una colmena tenía

dentro de mi corazón;

y las doradas abejas

iban fabricando en él,

con las amarguras viejas,

blanca cera y dulce miel.


  Anoche cuando dormía

soñé ¡bendita ilusión!

que un ardiente sol lucía

dentro de mi corazón.

Era ardiente porque daba

calores de rojo hogar,

y era sol porque alumbraba

y porque hacía llorar.


  Anoche cuando dormía

soñé ¡bendita ilusión!

que era Dios lo que tenía

dentro de mi corazón.

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Literary tourism – a visit to Laurie Lee country

If you love Spain, as I do, read “As I Walked Out One Mid-Summer Morning,” by English poet and author Laurie Lee.

His prose captures better than any other English language writer I’ve read the sensory impact of Spain: the sounds, smells, colors and tastes; the feel of the air and quality of the light; the complex character of Spaniards across the different regions of a peninsula permanently divided by mountain ranges.  In 1934, Lee, only 20 years old, walked alone across Spain from north to south playing his violin to earn a few coins along the way.  His writing depicts a nation on the verge of civil war.

I’ve loved  Spain for decades. I first read Lee only three years ago. Now that I live in the UK, he’s on my literary tourism trail, which so far includes a pilgrimage to Howath in Yorkshire, the home of the Bronte  sisters, and to Chalfort St. Giles the site of the country cottage in the Cotswolds where John Milton wrote “Paradise Lost.”

Lee is not well-known in the US, as far as I can tell. He is best known here in the UK for “Cider with Rosie” which depicts the village and culture of his childhood in this beautiful farming and wool production region to the north and west of London. My visit to Slad, his tiny home village in Gloucestershire, proved his lyrical descriptions accurate.

Laurie Lee country

Laurie Lee country

The BBC did a lovely long radio interview and web piece about him in 1997 just before he died.

Laurie Lee on the BBC

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