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Damien Hirst’s coup

The art market – Hands up for Hirst

How the bad boy of Brit-Art grew rich at the expense of his investors

IN 2008 just over $270m-worth of art by Damien Hirst was sold at auction, a world record for a living artist. By 2009 Mr Hirst’s annual auction sales had shrunk by 93%—to $19m—and the 2010 total is likely to be even lower. The collapse in the Hirst market can partly be ascribed to the recession. But more important are the lingering effects of a two-day auction of new work by Mr Hirst that Sotheby’s launched in London on September 15th 2008.
The sale was memorable for many reasons, not least its name, “Beautiful Inside My Head Forever”. The first session took place the very evening that Lehman Brothers went bankrupt. No one on Wall Street or in the City of London knew who might be next. Yet within the New Bond Street saleroom, collectors went on bidding, oblivious to the bloodletting without.
The sale was an innovative, daredevil affair. The art market is divided into “primary”, new work sold through galleries, and “secondary”, literally second-hand art, which is often put up for auction. This sale was full of primary material straight out of Mr Hirst’s studio, some of it not yet dry. (Usually the only new art sold at auction is donated by artists to raise money for charity.) According to Frank Dunphy, Mr Hirst’s business manager at the time, the galleries that represent him were very unhappy. Soon after breaking the news to Larry Gagosian, the world’s leading dealer, Mr Dunphy recalled their conversation: “Larry said, ‘It sounds like bad business to me. It’ll be confusing to collectors. Why do you need to do this? We could continue in the old way’.” Mr Dunphy went on: “We’ve had our shouting matches over the years. But there was no shouting that day.”
Sotheby’s was keen to build its own brand around a celebrity artist rather than the usual assortment of inanimate objects. The sale was marketed on YouTube and through the media around the world, part of a conscious effort to broaden international demand for the work. Sotheby’s filled its exhibition rooms with Hirsts. Never had so much of his art been seen in one place. Many art-world insiders saw the sale as an artistic event. Cheyenne Westphal (pictured above, right), European chairman of Sotheby’s contemporary art, says: “Damien’s auctions will become part of his oeuvre. He has done three sales: ‘Pharmacy’ (2004), the ‘RED’ charity auction (2008), and ‘Beautiful’. Fast forwarding, they will be very good provenance.”
Few people were convinced, though, that the market could absorb 223 lots from one artist in 24 hours. Yet an astonishing 97% of the works sold. “Beautiful” brought in £111m ($198m) and expanded the art market: 39% of the buyers had never bought contemporary art before and 24% of them were new to Sotheby’s. Europeans (including Russians) bought 74% of the lots, while 17.7% went to the Americas and 8.3% flew to Asia and the Middle East.
But who exactly bought what? Even Mr Hirst admits, “I’m still finding out.” Dealers acquired some works, but 81% of the buyers were private collectors purchasing directly. Miuccia Prada, an Italian designer and longstanding Hirst collector, for example, spent £6.3m acquiring a trio of Mr Hirst’s trademark animals in formaldehyde: “The Black Sheep with the Golden Horn”, “False Idol” (a calf), and “The Dream” (a foal made to look like a unicorn). “I think it was an incredible conceptual gesture, not a sale,” she says.
Several billionaires from the former Soviet Union also took part. Alexander Machkevitch, a Kazakh mining magnate with a taste for metallurgical themes, bought six lots in the evening sale: a large stainless steel cabinet filled with manufactured diamonds, a pair of gold-plated cabinets containing more lab gems, three butterfly canvasses and a spot painting with a gleaming gold background for a total of £11.7m. Other buyers from the region included Maria Baibakova, Vladislav Doronin, Victor Pinchuk and Gary Tatintsian.
Speculation abounds about who spent £10.3m (including commission) on “The Golden Calf”, a bull in formaldehyde with 18-carat gold hooves and horns. Many thought the garish top lot carried an ambitious estimate, £8m-12m, and would be hard to sell. In the event it proved a nervous moment—there were only two bidders—and whoever acquired it has not been showing it off. The persistent rumour is that the “Calf” has gone to the royal family of Qatar. (Just over a year earlier the emir’s daughter, Sheikha al-Mayassa al-Thani, bought Mr Hirst’s “Lullaby Spring”, a pill cabinet, for £9.65m, the highest price ever paid for a work by a living artist.) When asked about the Qataris, Mr Hirst replies, “I’m sure they did buy things. But it’s all hearsay. I got a call from somebody who said [the Qataris] bought ‘The Golden Calf’ but I think they’re denying it.”
Could any other artist pull off this kind of spectacular trade? Mr Hirst is often likened to Jeff Koons, an American pop artist who overtook Mr Hirst as the most expensive living artist when his “Hanging Heart” sold for $23.6m in November 2007 (see chart 1). Although Mr Koons has a larger-than-life persona and his work enjoys international appeal, he is a conservative market player who issues works in controlled editions of five and concentrates exclusively on the very high end. Nothing could be further from Mr Hirst’s risk-loving manner and his desire to offer work at a range of different prices. “Beautiful” was a success in part because it offered something for everyone.
Mr Hirst, already rich and famous, became richer and more famous. But what of his investors? Two years after the auction, the second-hand trade in Hirsts has slowed to a trickle. Even Sotheby’s, which has had a Hirst in every major contemporary sale in London since “Pharmacy” in 2004, offered none of his art in this year’s evening sale in June. The auction house admits it is avoiding Mr Hirst’s work because it can’t meet its consignors’ price expectations.
The average auction price for a Hirst work in 2008 was $831,000. So far in 2010 it is down to $136,000, a sum that does not even take into account the many lots that failed to find buyers. With prices down to 2002 levels, the artist’s work is outperforming the S&P 500, but is lagging well behind Artnet’s C50 contemporary art index, an industrial average of the 50 most traded post-war artists (see chart 2). The only Hirst pieces that are showing signs of recovery are butterfly paintings, particularly the wing-only works that evoke kaleidoscopes and stained-glass windows. Nine of the ten top trades since the “Beautiful” sale have been butterflies of some sort.
A seller’s disappointment, however, is a buyer’s opportunity. Alberto Mugrabi, a dealer and devoted supporter of most things Hirst, observed the “Beautiful” sale carefully, but bought little. By contrast, he admits to buying 40% of the Hirst paintings that have come up for sale at Sotheby’s and Christie’s in the past year. “I believe in the artist,” he says. The Mugrabi family owns some 110 Hirsts, including an installation that features 30 sheep, two doves, a shark and a splayed cow in formaldehyde. The Mugrabis offered $35m for the artist’s diamond skull, “For the Love of God”, but failed to secure the work that was marketed at $100m and has never sold. “The Mugrabis rarely buy directly from me,” says Mr Hirst. “We can never work out a deal because they want such fierce prices.”
The Mugrabis liken the tumble in Mr Hirst’s secondary prices to Andy Warhol’s in the early 1990s. “In the long term, the market will be more than fine. I couldn’t be more optimistic,” says Mr Mugrabi. Yet they have not invested in Mr Hirst’s latest line of Francis Bacon-inspired skull paintings, saying that they are “not visually continuous with the old work, which we find more beautiful and relevant.” Unlike most of the work, which is made by teams of other people, the artist actually paints these himself. Most of the reviews have been ruthless: “The Worst of Hirst” and “Hirst, Renaissance man, obviously not”.
Americans who did not make purchases at the “Beautiful” sale have recently shown more confidence, buying from Gagosian Gallery’s “End of an Era” show in New York earlier this year. The Broad Art Foundation acquired “Judgement Day”, a giant gold-plated cabinet containing lab diamonds. Millicent Wilner, a Gagosian director, affirms that all 15 new works in the exhibition sold for a total of over $30m.
At the Hong Kong art fair in May a special Hirst stand by his British dealer, White Cube Gallery, was swarming with young people having their photo taken in front of the works. Daniela Gareh, White Cube’s sales director, confirms that it sold to first-time Hirst buyers from Korea, Taiwan and mainland China. “The Chinese respond to branding and Damien is a master brander,” she says. Other Criteria, Mr Hirst’s print business, also did a solid trade at the fair. Photos of Mr Hirst’s most expensive unsold work went like hot cakes. The most popular item was a foot-high image of the artist’s diamond skull, an edition of 1,000, priced at £950.
In 2008 and 2009, Mr Hirst repeatedly made statements like “The first time you sell something is when it should cost the most” and “I’ve definitely had the goal to make the primary market more expensive.” The artist was frustrated by the speculators who were buying from his galleries then quickly reselling his work at auction. Moreover, the acquisition of a package of 12 of his own works from Charles Saatchi for £6m in 2003, far more than what Mr Saatchi had originally paid, may have led to an Oedipal determination to overthrow all the high-rolling dealers and collectors who thought they might lord it over the little artist.
The goal of making the primary works more expensive may benefit Mr Hirst’s personal income in the short-term, but it makes no sense from the perspective of his market. Part of the reason that art costs more than wallpaper is the expectation that it might appreciate in value. Flooding the market with new work is like debasing the coinage, a strategy used from Nero to the Weimar Republic with disastrous consequences. If Mr Hirst were managing a quoted company, he would be unable to enrich himself at the expense of his investors in quite the same way. But Mr Hirst is an artist and, in Western countries, artists are valued as rule-breaking rogues.
Two developments could help Mr Hirst’s secondary market. He has started compiling his catalogue raisonné, a complete list of all the works he has made, which will comfort those who suspect he has made hundreds more spot and spin paintings than he admits to. According to Francis Outred, Christie’s European head of contemporary art, “As with Warhol, this could bring reassuring clarity to the question of volume within each series.” Mr Hirst is also discussing with the Tate a retrospective show to coincide with the Olympic games in London in 2012.
Hirst sceptics point out that the only museum to hold a career survey of Mr Hirst’s work was in Naples, Italy, in 2004. From October 28th a private New York gallery, L&M Arts, will show 18 of his earliest medicine cabinets. The changing shape and contents of these pieces are the most intriguing evolutionary thread in Mr Hirst’s work. Indeed, they foreshadow the artist’s drive to assemble objects into auction spectaculars.
Where will the Hirst market go from here? The ball is still in Mr Hirst’s court. “Beautiful Inside My Head Forever” may have been an historic moment in artist empowerment, but such performances risk destroying the delicate ecology of living artists’ markets. Mr Hirst should repair his relationship with his collectors and concentrate on his retrospective. Another “Beautiful” sale could be ugly.

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The importance of David Bowie

By Paul Morley FT.com
Published: September 3 2010 21:59 | Last updated: September 3 2010 21:59

David Bowie on stage in Rotterdam in 1976
David Bowie on stage in Rotterdam in 1976, the year he made ‘Station to Station’

How much do you like David Bowie? You will have to like him a lot to want to spend more than £80 on a deluxe box set edition of his 10th studio album Station to Station (1976), an ostentatious souvenir collection of memorabilia, outtakes, live concerts, photography, essays, remastered versions, exclusive mixes and heavyweight vinyl inspired by the mere six tracks that made up the original record.
It is a mesmerising album, one of Bowie’s best, which is saying something, as he made many, most of them during the 1970s, that were sold as entertainment but contained the moving detail and mysterious, transformative depth of art.
It may well be one of rock’s very greatest, as a comment both on where the smart, neurotic artist who made it was, psychologically, creatively and commercially, but also where rock music itself was, on its compelling journey from Sinatra, Presley and the Beatles to Prince, Jay-Z and Gaga, from the Velvet Underground, the Kinks and Kraftwerk to Madonna, Nirvana and Nine Inch Nails. It is one of those Bowie albums, like Hunky Dory (1971), or Ziggy Stardust (1972), or Low (1977), or Lodger (1979), that are at times my favourite of his, because they demonstrate with such elan what a sparkling, mischievous mind he had, and what ambition, and what a stupendous ego, and how dangerously charming he was.
His impact as a musician, as a brand, as a sign of the times, has been as great as Dylan and the Beatles, his influence as an otherworldly pop star actually greater, and if you just want one example of what he got up to as this erudite pop combination of shaman, singer, thinker and shameless self-promoter, then Station to Station is as good a place as any. But is all of that worth £80? And does wrapping it up inside such technological and geeky paraphernalia clarify its position as a musical masterpiece, or turn it into a banal collector’s item, a nicely designed object of desire for committed Bowie fetishists and connoisseurs?
There’s no obvious anniversary marking the release of the deluxe edition. It’s a non-special 34 years since Station to Station was produced, coming between the Americanised soul-funk slickness of his Young Americans (1975) album and the radiant, challenging Euro-bleakness of Low. He was working on Nic Roeg’s dark film fable The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976). Peter O’Toole was not available to play Thomas Jerome Newton, an exiled visitor from outer space, a role that seemed perfect for the lost, distracted, preternaturally bright Bowie. Station to Station was a soundtrack that never was to the film as Bowie was strangely not asked to compose the movie’s music. Roeg just wanted the cracked, emaciated Bowie that was falling apart in real life, the wired, burnt-out pop star playing the baffled but brilliant spaceman from the future, part new-born innocent, part ancient guru.
Playing an alien, and having lost sight of his real self after years of relentless shapeshifting, Bowie constructed a new character, the Thin White Duke. Inside six years, since 1970, he’d been a psychedelic music hall singer channelling Syd Barrett and Anthony Newley, a whimsical novelty specialist, surreal folkie, risqué glam rock starman, cosmic wizard, apocalyptic androgynous Diamond Dog and blanked-out white soul man flirting with superstardom. Now, he would play a transparently autobiographical, ghostly, narcissistic, cocaine obsessed, existential adventurer, anxiously yearning for deeper meaning in a superficial, chilling world.
Bowie would kill off the damaged, demented Thin White Duke a little quicker than he killed off Ziggy Stardust, just in case the Duke took over like Ziggy appeared to. The soundtrack to this character showed Bowie withdrawing from his fascination with the expressive, penetrating showmanship of American soul and turning to more enigmatic and forward looking European music. Young Americans, containing hits such as “Fame” and an appearance by John Lennon, was the calculatedly commercial Bowie response to achieving the American fame he had set his heart on. He was becoming so successful he was peering into some form of the middle of the road, a fixed place Bowie wasn’t quite ready for.
Station to Station – feeling hunted, he was moving from place to place, character to character, fixation to fixation, charade to charade – was where he faced his demons, and made a kind of baroque soul music where it is not quite clear if there is soul involved. It retains the iced funk and post disco groove of Young Americans, alongside decaying traces of the kinky folk, metal, glam, and cabaret melodrama he’d passed through in the early 1970s. But it was already anticipating his less obviously commercial next destination, abstract and minimalist European electronic music. Station to Station contains echoes of everything Bowie had done, or was about to do. Previous characters re-dream themselves. It becomes the link, the tunnel, through which Bowie crawled – spent, emptied out – from fraying pop star decadence to the three classic made in Berlin albums he released next. On Low, Heroes (1977) and Lodger, Bowie and close collaborators Brian Eno and Tony Visconti created a stark, pulsating post-pop soundtrack to personal and historical tensions where Bowie broke out into the wider spaces of the universe. On this trilogy, Bowie refrained from entering the worlds himself, and losing himself in all the offbeat theatre. Station to Station was where he recovered himself, or at least enough of himself that he could continue his search for new extremes, and new experiences, and the kind of unusual, unforced new pop music he craved, music that produced worlds all of his own.
. . .
Depending on your age, you might already have bought a few versions of Station to Station. First of all, pretty much on the day it came out, the original RCA vinyl disc, released when the deliciously unstable Bowie dominated the pop planet in a way that makes Gaga, Beyoncé, Florence and co seem a little lightweight. Then, a few years later, the CD version, and then perhaps, depending how much you loved Bowie, a remastered CD version, even a Japanese import. Or two.

Album cover of David Bowie's 'Station to Station'
The original 1976 cover

Digging through my record cupboard, preparing the space for the big box of Station to Station, I find I have the vinyl version, with original black and white cover, and the bright orange RCA label that induces Proustian pangs of feeling for those days when a male teenager could fall in love with Bowie because he seemed so alive, and so scandalously full of himself. I’ve also got a CD version bought at full price, and then one bought for less than a fiver when I thought I’d lost the first one. The music business survived well into the 1990s following a policy of blind greed persuading people to buy albums they already owned all over again on CD. Now, perhaps at the end of its tether, devastated by the arrival of such alternative music sources as iTunes, the music industry is hoping to persuade people to buy once more in a gorgeous new format the same thing yet again, still relying on its back catalogues for sustenance. Or, depending on your point of view, ensuring that in a world where music can be so easily distributed through the air, the album can still exist in tempting solid form, as a tangible thing, something that you can hold, not merely store, and place in a sterile list of your favourite music.
The vinyl version is something that I have clearly held a lot, and loved, and still love, prized like a hardback first edition, now looking strangely oversized and florid in a world where even the miniaturised CD has been replaced by essentially the featureless, soulless, click-click nothing of the download. The CD versions look less powerful, more paperback, and more clinical.
Somehow, an old collection of music that could recently be bought for a few pounds, on the verge of being something you could get on tap, is now on sale, admittedly smartly done up, for almost £90. This is a lavish way of pointing out that a big part of the appeal of a pop record in the last few years of the vinyl era was the combination of the music and the art, the image, the design – the overall story, a constantly developing context – that went with it.
It calls into question just what is going to happen to all those albums that have been made and that artistically deserve to endure now that the era of this kind of vinyl-shaped album is more or less over. What was an album, what is Station to Station, how will we remember it? As a complete, significant work, as a series of loosely connected songs that will just randomly flow off into space and time, separated from each other, available on demand until they just fade away into silence, or some kind of work of art that needs to be celebrated and dissected in this way?
It seems right that David Bowie is at the forefront of such consideration of how vinyl era music – songs and stardom that existed because of the nature of the 45rpm single and the 33⅓ album – will survive this new period in music. He may not have been especially active for the past 20 years or so but he’s never stopped thinking, and plotting, and fastidiously nurturing his image.
After making his extraordinary albums in the 1970s, and inevitably running out of energy in the 1980s, he then settled down into his reputation, his history, with a knowing, Dylan-like acceptance, and an occasional Dylan-like reminder of his unique powers. He wasn’t as aloof and inscrutable as Dylan, but had his own ways of protecting, and projecting, his mystique. In Bowie’s case, this meant not just an occasional good new album, or a memorable tour. It also meant a strategic understanding of how entertainment itself was changing because of the technological progression that meant there would be more and more music, less and less originality, and newer ways of receiving and playing that music. He ended his formal alliances with record labels at the beginning of the century, set himself up as web location, turned himself into a sort of bank, and in 1997 sold his future royalties to the Prudential Insurance Company as Bowie Bonds, leading some wags to suggest he invented derivatives and was directly responsible for the latest recession. A confirmed futurist, he anticipated a breakdown in music industry and media certainties, and prepared himself for the science fiction future he always craved. A future where his 20th-century music could still exist, and still sound contemporary.
Albums such as Station to Station are from the past. Boxing them up in expensive deluxe editions is essentially a commercially based nostalgic act, extending their life as product, to some extent one last mad music industry fling. But the music itself, six songs, expertly weaving their enchanting phantom spell, from the opening title track, an extended montage of despair and determination, lunacy and sorrow, to the final track, a precious, caressing version of “Wild is the Wind” first sung in 1957 by Johnny Mathis, where Bowie appears to repair his self-control, via the tricky, nervily jaunty big hit “Golden Years”, is thus given yet another lease of life. The music is strong and intriguing enough to resist the vulgarisation of being repackaged and resold one more time. Somehow, the ornate deluxe edition of Station to Station says: the album is dead, long live the album.
…………………………………………..
From Ziggy Stardust to SpongeBob SquarePants
1947 David Robert Jones born January 8 in Brixton, south London. Shares same birthday as Elvis Presley.
1953 Family moves to Kent. Attends Bromley Technical High School where Peter Frampton, later a rock guitarist, is a friend.
1961 Fight with friend leaves one pupil severely dilated, causing illusion his eyes are different colours.
1963 Leaves school with art O-level. Becomes junior paste-up artist at ad agency.
1964 First release, under the name of Davie Jones, is “Liza Jane/Louie Louie Go Home”. Interviewed on TV as founder of Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Long-haired Men, he complains, “It’s not nice when people call you darling and that.”
1966 Changes name to Bowie to avoid clash with Davy Jones of the Monkees.
1967First solo album, David Bowie, an odd, jolly mix of pop and psychedelia.
1969 “Space Oddity”, song set in outer space, released to coincide with moon landing
1970 Marries Mary Angela (Angie) Barnett for whom the Rolling Stones song “Angie” was written. Begins unequalled run of 11 studio albums from Man Who Sold The World (1970) to Scary Monsters (1980).
1972 First appearance of glam group Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. Produces Lou Reed’s Transformer.
1973 Breaks up Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars.
1975 Re-release of “Space Oddity” is first UK number one.
1977 Bing Crosby records “The Little Drummer Boy”, with Bowie, a month before crooner’s death. Appears on old friend Marc Bolan’s ITV music show, duetting on “Heroes”. Bolan dies in car crash two days later.
1980 “Ashes to Ashes” is second UK number one.
1981 “Under Pressure”, with Queen, is third number one.

David Bowie in 'The Man Who Fell To Earth'
In ‘The Man Who Fell To Earth’ (1976)

1983 Releases Let’s Dance, produced by Nile Rodgers; title track fourth number one
1985 Having won praise as actor in films The Man Who Fell To Earth (1976), The Hunger (1983), Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence (1983) and on Broadway in The Elephant Man in 1980, turns down role in Bond film A View to a Kill. Duet with Mick Jagger on “Dancing in the Streets” leads to fifth number one.
1989 Forms Tin Machine. Critics sneer, live album does not chart.
1992 Marries Iman Abdul Majid in Switzerland.
1996 Plays Andy Warhol in Julian Schnabel’s Basquiat.
1997 Releases internet-only single “Telling Lies”. Predicts time when music will be freely available at click of a switch. Sells back catalogue for $55m, creating Bowie Bonds, planning to pay back money from future royalties.
2003 Declines knighthood.
2004 Suffers heart attack, undergoes triple bypass.
2006 Receives lifetime award at Grammys.
2007 Voices Lord Royal Highness on TV cartoon SpongeBob SquarePants.
2010 Lady Gaga says Bowie is her biggest influence and she wants to work with him

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Rosh Hashana Recipes Routed Through Africa


Nanda Gonzague for The New York Times
From left, Carole Chaouat, Cathy Levy, with makroud, and Corynne Mas share recipes for the High Holy Days. Like many Jews in France, their holiday meals have North African influences.

August 31, 2010

Rosh Hashana Recipes Routed Through Africa

Perpignan, France
CORYNNE MAS said the pastries she makes for Rosh Hashana were like teiglach, Eastern European cookies covered with nuts and honey.
But the version she’ll give her family when the holiday starts next Wednesday night will be stuffed with spiced dates and scented with orange flower water — Middle Eastern touches her mother, a French Jew with Eastern European roots, would not have recognized. They are called makroud, something she learned from her mother-in-law, an Algerian Jew.
Most of the dishes Ms. Mas cooks are North African. And when she gets together with her good friends Carole Chaouat and Cathy Levy, North African Jews, the food they share is more likely flavored with harissa, cumin and honey, than horseradish, dill or sugar.
The culinary transformation Ms. Mas experienced would feel familiar to many French Jews. About a quarter of the 300,000 Jews in France before World War II died in the Holocaust, and others later left for Israel or the United States. But as independence came to the former French colonies of Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria in the late 1950s and early 1960s, many more Jews emigrated to France. The customs they brought came to define French Jewish food.
Ms. Mas, 54, said she was not raised with an appreciation for her Jewish background. “I have learned everything from my Algerian mother-in-law,” she said. “The Sephardic Jews are attached to their religion and are refueling Jewish life in France.”
Many of these Sephardic dishes actually have centuries-old roots here in southwestern France and Catalonia, from before Jews were expelled and settled in North Africa. Jewish cooks here still use the ingredients of those ancestors — anise, olive oil, rose water, and pine nuts — reimagined on stovetops in Marrakesh, Oran and Tunis.
The physical traces of these traditions here are literally cast in stone in the remains of Jewish quarters in nearly every town — Hebrew letters on a grave, the indentation on the right side of an ancient doorpost indicating a once-posted mezuza, names like Rue de la Juiverie or Rue de Jérusalem found on cobblestone streets.
But new synagogues in Perpignan, or nearby in Narbonne and Béziers, have only initials in French outside the door: A.C.I.N., for Association Culturelle Israélite de Narbonne. There is no clear indication to the passer-by that these are Jewish houses of prayer.
Ms. Mas; Ms. Chaouat, 54, born in Tunisia; and Ms. Levy, 45, born in Morocco, grew up in Perpignan, a center of Jewish culture during the Middle Ages. It now has about 450 Jewish families.
As the women gathered beneath an almond tree on the patio of Ms. Mas’s home, Ms. Chaouat served a potato salad, dipping two fingers in a jar of harissa and dabbing at the potatoes she had prepared, as she would do with other cooked vegetables.
“This is the way we share recipes,” Ms. Chaouat said. “Food is our identity, tradition and our roots.”
Each group of immigrant Jews brought its own influences.
“Moroccans like sweet and salty in everything,” said Ms. Chaouat, who works as a caregiver for the elderly. “Tunisians eat couscous, but it is always savory and we serve everything on the table at once.”
Vegetables stuffed with meat are a popular holiday dish. The stuffing sometimes is made with parsley or eggs, sometimes with nuts, and always cooked slowly. Ms. Levy’s version, a Moroccan dish with roots here, includes cinnamon, turmeric and nutmeg and is cooked at low temperature overnight to be ready on the first night of the holiday. (But it can also be cooked more quickly at a higher temperature.)
Ms. Levy, a deputy mayor in her village outside of Perpignan, is usually in charge of food for synagogue events, gathering her friends to cook with her.
“We cook everyday and our children like to eat our food,” she said. “Living in a small town, we don’t lose time in traffic. So we have time to cook.”
Ms. Levy added: “If you don’t make traditional recipes at Rosh Hashana or the Sabbath, it is the revolution. Every holiday meal starts with at least two dozen tapas. Once my son said: ‘Why do you work so hard at cooking? Why don’t you make just one salad for Rosh Hashana!’ ” The next holiday, she brought out one salad. Her son looked chagrined and said, “Where are the other 23?”
So she brought out the 23 other dishes that she had hidden in a cupboard.

Rosh Hashana Recipes Routed Through Africa – NYTimes.com: “

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High in the Andes, Keeping an Incan Mystery Alive

August 16, 2010

SAN CRISTÓBAL DE RAPAZ, Peru — The route to this village 13,000 feet above sea level runs from the desert coast up hairpin bends, delivering the mix of exhilaration and terror that Andean roads often provide. Condors soar above mist-shrouded crags. Quechua-speaking herders squint at strangers who arrive gasping in the thin air.
Rapaz’s isolation has allowed it to guard an enduring archaeological mystery: a collection of khipus, the cryptic woven knots that may explain how the Incas — in contrast to contemporaries in the Ottoman Empire and China’s Ming dynasty — ruled a vast, administratively complex empire without a written language.
Archaeologists say the Incas, brought down by the Spanish conquest, used khipus — strands of woolen cords made from the hair of animals like llamas or alpacas — as an alternative to writing. The practice may have allowed them to share information from what is now southern Colombia to northern Chile.
Few of the world’s so-called lost writings have proved as daunting to decipher as khipus, scholars say, with chroniclers from the outset of colonial rule bewildered by their inability to crack the code. Researchers at Harvard have been using databases and mathematical models in recent efforts to understand the khipu (pronounced KEE-poo), which means knot in Quechua, the Inca language still spoken by millions in the Andes.
Only about 600 khipus are thought to survive. Collectors spirited many away from Peru decades ago, including a mother lode of about 300 held atBerlin’s Ethnological Museum. Most were thought to have been destroyed after Spanish officials decreed them to be idolatrous in 1583.
But Rapaz, home to about 500 people who subsist by herding llamas and cattle and farming crops like rye, offers a rare glimpse into the role of khipus during the Inca Empire and long afterward. The village houses one of the last known khipu collections still in ritual use.
“I feel my ancestors talking to me when I look at our khipu,” said Marcelina Gallardo, 48, a herder who lives with her children here in the puna, the Andean region above the tree line where temperatures drop below freezing at night and carnivores like the puma prey on herds.
Outside her stone hut one recent morning, Ms. Gallardo nodded toward the stomach lining and skull of a newly butchered llama drying in the sun. She shared a shred of llama charqui, or jerky. “The khipu is a jewel of our life in this place,” she said.
Even here, no one claims to understand the knowledge encoded in the village’s khipus, which are guarded in a ceremonial house called a Kaha Wayi. The khipus’ intricate braids are decorated with knots and tiny figurines, some of which hold even tinier bags filled with coca leaves.
The ability of Rapacinos, as the villagers are called, to decipher their khipus seems to have faded with elders who died long ago, though scholars say the village’s use of khipus may have continued into the 19th century. Testing tends to show dates for Rapaz’s khipus that are well beyond the vanquishing of the Incas, and experts say they differ greatly from Inca-designed khipus.
Even now, Rapacinos conduct rituals in the Kaha Wayi beside their khipus, as described by Frank Salomon, an anthropologist at the University of Wisconsin who led a recent project to help Rapaz protect its khipus in an earthquake-resistant casing.
One tradition requires the villagers to murmur invocations during the bone-chilling night to the deified mountains surrounding Rapaz, asking for the clouds to let forth rain. Then they peer into burning llama fat and read how its sparks fly, before sacrificing a guinea pig and nestling it in a hole with flowers and coca.
The survival of such rituals, and of Rapaz’s khipus, testifies to the village’s resilience after centuries of hardship. Fading murals on the walls of Rapaz’s colonial church depict devils pulling Indians into the flames of hell for their sins. Feudal landholding families forced the ancestors of many here into coerced labor.
Rapacinos have also faced more recent challenges. A government of leftist military officers in the 1970s created economic havoc with nationalization, sowing chaos exploited by the Maoist guerrillas of the Shining Path who terrorized Rapaz into the 1990s, effectively shutting it off from significant contact with the rest of Peru.
But throughout it all, perhaps because of the village’s high level of cohesion and communal ownership of land and herds, Rapacinos somehow preserved their khipus in their Kaha Wayi.
“They feel that they must protect the khipu collection for the same reason we feel that we have to defend the physical original of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution,” Professor Salomon said. “I’ve heard people say, ‘It’s our Constitution, it’s our Magna Carta.’ ”
Despite Rapaz’s forbidding geography, changes in the rhythm of village life here are emerging that may alter the way Rapacinos relate to their khipus.
About a year ago, villagers say, a loudspeaker replaced the town crier. And a new cellphone tower enables Rapacinos to communicate more easily with the outside world. Those changes are largely welcome. More menacing are the rustlers in pickup trucks who steal llamas, cattle and vicuñas — Andean members of the camel family prized for their wool.
The most immediate threat to the khipus may be from Rapaz’s tilt toward Protestantism, a trend witnessed in communities large and small throughout Latin America. About 20 percent of Rapacino families already belong to new Protestant congregations, which view rituals near the khipus as pagan sacrilege.
Far from Rapaz, the pursuit to decipher khipus faces its own challenges, even as new discoveries suggest that they were used in Andean societies long before the Inca Empire emerged as a power in the 15th century.
Scholars say they lack the equivalent for khipus of a Rosetta Stone, the granite slab whose engravings in Greek were used to decipher ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. Jesuit manuscripts discovered in Naples, Italy, had seemed to achieve something similar for khipus, but are now thought to be forgeries.
In Rapaz, villagers still guard their khipus the way descendants of those in the West might someday protect shreds of the Bible or other documents if today’s civilizations were to crumble.
“They must remain here, because they belong to our people,” said Fidencio Alejo Falcón, 42. “We will never surrender them.”

Andrea Zárate contributed reporting from Lima, Peru.


San Crist�bal De Rapaz Journal – High in the Andes, Guardians of an Inca Mystery – NYTimes.com

The MasterFeeds


Sub-Saharan Africa economy: Strategic rise
FROM THE ECONOMIST INTELLIGENCE UNIT
July 13th 2010

Rising global competition for commodities is giving a new strategic importance to resource-rich Sub-Saharan Africa. China and other emerging industrialised countries are vying with the subcontinent’s former colonial powers to acquire long-term stakes in mines, oilfields and other commodity assets. With unprecedented volumes of investment on offer, the stakes are high not only for resource companies seeking to expand in Africa but also for the region itself. The challenge for African governments will be to manage their commodities better to avoid a repeat of the boom-and-bust years of the 1970s-90s.

Natural resources are hardly a new story for Sub-Saharan Africa. For decades the region has depended on exports of commoditiesóoil, hard minerals and cash cropsóto fund economic growth, though often with disappointing results. The collapse in commodity prices in the late 1970s and the mismanagement of revenue inflows resulted in weak growth and rising poverty, cementing the belief that Africa’s dependence on commodities retarded its economic development. However, soaring emerging-market demand for commodities in recent years, coupled with the increasing scarcity of hydrocarbons and hard minerals, has changed the picture. Sub-Saharan Africa has become a prime target for adventurous foreign investorsówith Chinese companies playing a particularly prominent roleówith the result that the subcontinent once again has the opportunity to benefit from its natural wealth.

Sub-Saharan Africa is one of the most commodity-rich regions of the planet. The subcontinent contains the majority of known reserves of many key minerals, including 90% of the world’s platinum-group metals, 90% of the world’s chromium, two-thirds of the world’s manganese, and 60% of its diamonds. It contains 60% of the world’s phosphates, 50% of the world’s vanadium, and 40-50% of the world’s gold. Sub-Saharan Africa also boasts one-third of the planet’s uranium reserves, one-third of its bauxite, and 10% of all oil reserves (the bulk of which are concentrated in the Gulf of Guinea in West Africa).

Most of these resources are underexploited. Uneven development has resulted in a handful of countries dominating commodity exports. The most important by far, both in terms of the diversity of its commodity base and the volume of its exports, is South Africa. The subcontinent’s other commodity giant is the Democratic Republic of Congo, which sits on over half of the world’s cobalt reserves and 25% of its diamonds, as well as having large quantities of rare metals such as coltan (used in mobile phones). Nigeria and Angola dominate oil production. However, other countries are starting to develop their commodity resources, and several are set to become major producers in the near future. They include Guinea and Angola (iron ore), Ghana (hydrocarbons), and Guinea-Bissau (bauxite and phosphates).

Sub-Saharan Africa also boasts a large agricultural sector. Much of this focused on the production of cash crops for export to the West during the colonial period and in the first years after independence. Since the late 1970s Africa has lost global importance as an exporter of many cash crops. The main exceptions have been coffee, cocoa and tea, for which CÙte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Uganda and Kenya remain key global producers, and more specialised crops like cashew nuts (Guinea-Bissau) and vanilla (Madagascar). However, increased competition from Asian and Latin American producers, coupled with a decline in Africa’s terms of trade, has eroded profitability. Africa also continues to export large quantities of timber, particularly to China, but poor forestry management is threatening the sector’s sustainability.

A scramble for access

Major emerging markets are playing a key role in the development of the region’s commodities sector. Since the early 2000s China has invested heavily in African commodities, reflecting the two-pronged strategy of China’s state-owned oil and mining companies: first, acquiring access to reserves through long-term contracts; and second, purchasing stakes in local ventures whenever possible. According to the Chinese government, by end-2008 total Chinese investment in Sub-Saharan Africa amounted to US$26bn, including stakes in oil and gas concessions in Sudan and the Gulf of Guinea, copper mines in Zambia, iron concessions in Gabon, and ferrochrome and platinum mines in South Africa.

China is not the only player around. Chinese interest is increasingly being matched by investment from Indian or Indian-linked firms, notably the steel manufacturing giants Tata Steel and ArcelorMittal, which are acquiring stakes in large coal concessions in Mozambique. Brazil is also stepping up its investment. Given the expertise of Brazilian companies in construction, engineering and the oil sector, it is likely that these firms will provide stiff competition for contracts in the next phase of Africa’s infrastructure expansion.

Competition looks set to be particularly intense in the Gulf of Guinea, which continues to grow in strategic importance thanks to the steady increase in its proven oil reserves (a result of better deep-water drilling technology). The region is already the focus of military co-operation programmes between African governments and the US, EU and China. Tensions between these powers could increase as each seeks to establish a foothold in the region. Such a situation could prove advantageous to countries in the Gulf of Guinea if they are able to play off competing powers against each other. However, past experience indicates that such competition and strategic alliances can be used to prop up unsavoury regimes. This also poses potential difficulties for foreign investors. China is learning the hard way that its resource grabs can expose it to reputational risks over human-rights and environmental abuses.

Reaping the benefits?

There are plenty of other challenges. The region exports a lot of its commodities in unprocessed form, thus missing the chance to add value to them. For example, Guinea-Bissau exports its entire cashew crop (over 90% of the country’s exports) to India for processing. The creation of low-tech processing operations could capture more of the value of the crop, as well as creating significant numbers of jobs. However, efforts to develop processing industries in Africa have proved disappointing owing to the constraints of the business environment, poor management and competition from processors in India and China.

Broader challenges include managing capital inflows better and maximising the economic benefits of foreign investments. Progress is occurring, with improved local-content provisions in mining contracts, the imposition of tighter environmental standards and greater transparency over commodity revenues. However, greater efforts are needed. African governments must ensure that infrastructure development does not just support the exploitation and export of minerals but also facilitates trade and the movement of people and goods. Local workforces must be trained in new skills and not just used for manual labour. A large proportion of oil and mineral revenues need to be held outside the countries in question in order to prevent currency appreciation that could render other industries uncompetitive.

If African governments can realise these aims, there is a good chance that the subcontinent’s natural-resource endowment could provide major benefits to the population. Otherwise, the next wave of commodity development will merely entrench poor governance and corruption and further stifle economic development.

The Economist Intelligence Unit

Source: Global Forecasting Service

© 2010 The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited. An Economist Group business. All rights reserved.

Sub-Saharan Africa economy: Strategic rise Sub-Saharan Africa economy: Strategic rise ViewsWire
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The MasterBlog


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just another walk in the park…… 
Ed Stafford is first man to walk length of the Amazon





Walking the Amazon
'Loony idea' ... Ed Stafford walked the entire length of Amazon river
‘Loony idea’ … Ed Stafford walked the entire length of Amazon river
ED Stafford had a “loony idea” to do something no one had ever done – and walk the entire 4,000-mile length of the Amazon.
He reckoned the epic journey would take him 12 months… but he was a bit out.
Now, two and a quarter YEARS after setting out, the 34-year-old former Army captain is still walking – but is finally within days of his goal.
On the way Ed has been pursued by machete-wielding tribesmen and detained for murder, as well as outwitting jaguars, pit vipers and a fly that set up home in his head.
Long hard trek ... Ed Stafford wades through the Amazon
Long hard trek … Ed Stafford wades through the Amazon
Keith Ducatel
He has lived off piranhas and struck fear into local tribes who mistook him for a monster that traded in babies’ body parts.
Ed told The Sun from the Brazilian jungle: “I have a week until I arrive at a network of roads around Belem and then ten days on roads.
“It’s unavoidable – unfortunately I’m not slipping out of the jungle on to the beach, although there is a little road that looks out on to the Atlantic.
“It will be wonderful. I can’t tell you how long it seems to have taken. I was expecting it to be a year, but it seems like a lifetime.”
Ed left Britain in March 2008, starting the journey at Camana in Peru with pal Luke Collyer, though they fell out just months into the trip.
Luke came home and Ed found another hiking partner, Peruvian guide Gadiel Rivera, known as “Cho”.
Their achievement of walking from the river’s source to its mouth has already attracted support from legendary explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes, and Ed says: “I fully acknowledge it’s a loony thing to do. But no one has ever done it on foot.”
The pair used inflatable pack rafts to cross and recross the river and its flooded banks and used sat nav to pinpoint their route.
Perserverance ... Ed, here in Peruvian jungle, kept trekking despite unpleasent experiences
Perserverance … Ed, here in Peruvian jungle, kept trekking despite unpleasent experiences
Keith Ducatel
Ed adds: “It’s great to be so near the end. I’m not whingeing and struggling but physically I’m starting to fall apart. My joints feel funny, my elbow is ridiculously inflamed, my rucksack has been broken for two months and I’ve had a fly living in my head.”
The gruesome insect, called a botfly, lays its eggs on mosquitos which then bite humans, depositing the eggs under the skin, where they start to grow.
In Ed’s case it took superglue and a nasty-looking needle to get it out. But he reveals the most dangerous part of the trip was in Peru, where he and Cho crossed drug-trafficking territory.
Ed says: “The native people were telling me, ‘You will die’ every day. It can get to you after a while.
Whatever floats his boat ... Ed used inflatable rafts to cross the river
Whatever floats his boat … Ed used inflatable rafts to cross the river
Keith Ducatel
“We were in an area that for a long time had been controlled by terrorists from the Shining Path communist group and they are very wary of outsiders.
“We were using high-frequency radios to tell the villages ahead we were coming. But one told us, ‘If you come through you will die.’
“We came up with a back-up plan to cross over to an island that was a long sandbank instead.
“But as we were getting back to the shore we saw behind us five canoes with Indians with bows and arrows, shotguns and machetes.
Meeting the locals ... with Ashaninka Indians in Peru
Meeting the locals … with Ashaninka Indians in Peru
Keith Ducatel
“They were furious and ready to kill us, but we were as persuasive as we could be. We were finally able to calm them down but it took over three hours.”
Even so, Ed – who left the Army in 2002 after serving in Afghanistan – reckons the sheer duration of the trip has been the hardest part.
Crossing a continent ... Ed Stafford's amazing adventure
Crossing a continent … Ed Stafford’s amazing adventure
He says: “It’s the mosquitos, the humidity, the biting ants, day after day. Things that weren’t bothering me at first became a frustration, but I’ve stuck it out for nearly two and a half years.”
At one point he was also detained under suspicion of murder near Contamana, in north-east Peru.
He recalls: “A person had gone missing, and as passing foreigners, people thought we may have done it. The villagers decided we couldn’t go anywhere, until eventually the local authorities let us go.”
Along the way there have also been dramatic encounters with wildlife and Ed says: “Electric eels were something I hadn’t heard about beforehand.
“But as I now know they are dangerous and aggressive and can knock you out and even cause you to drown in the water.
“Luckily we’ve been through so many swamps and rivers and I think they are far more scared of us than we are of them.
“I’ve also seen lots of jaguar prints. The locals always say they are manhunters, but they’ve never been too close.
“Snakes are a real threat but only if you step on one.
Threat ... electric eel
Threat … electric eel
“Cho had a snake fall on his shoulders but it wasn’t venomous. We carry 48 hours’ worth of anti-venom.
“There are loads of pit vipers, which are probably our main worry.
“Without anti-venom you would bleed from all parts of your body, including your eyes, and would be dead within three hours.
“You are more likely to see them coiled up beneath a stone. If we got bitten it would probably be a defensive strike.” Ed says he can sometimes “completely switch off” during the walk but with the finish in sight he has increasingly been dreaming of home.
The food has often been extremely simple, with the pair mostly surviving on rice and beans, and while locals are usually friendly, their attitude to the pair has varied.

Anxiety

Ed says: “In Brazil people are more educated and more accepting, but in Peru they have had 30 years of terrorist activity and they have issues because they live in such high anxiety.
Danger ... pit viper
Danger … pit viper
“They believe in something called a Pelacala – a gringo, or white man, who steals babies and babies’ organs.
“All they have is word of mouth and lots of communities were just terrified to see me.
“I was walking with Cho and some Ama Indians who had to explain our presence, and their fear was very real.
“Maybe there have been body-parts traffickers in there in the past – it was hard to know.
“We tended to make ourselves available to communities, because otherwise they wonder why you are avoiding them.
“But I often had men standing around my hammock with guns all night to make sure I didn’t steal their children.”
The state of the Amazon rainforest on the trip has varied – in Peru the logging was difficult to detect but in the Para region of Brazil there are huge cattle ranches and vast areas that are now clear of trees.
Hazard ... jaguar
Hazard … jaguar
Ed, from Mowsley, Leicestershire, says: “You do see that the younger generation here are growing up knowing they need to protect it.
“We should all keep the pressure on, although I think over the next ten years the amount of deforestation will decline rapidly.
“We seem to be at the beginning of a more conscientious era.”
Ed says his trip has led to personal sacrifices – “like not having a girlfriend and being poor.”
It has cost nearly £70,000 and was only made possible after his mum and a friend launched a flurry of fundraising and sponsorship half-way through.
Unwanted guest ... botfly
Unwanted guest … botfly
Ed also admits he only decided on the epic journey after being dumped by a previous girlfriend in 2007. He adds: “It puts a pause on your love life – there just isn’t any.”
And he describes his ideal day once he is back in England.
He says: “My perfect day would be to wake up and have breakfast with my family and then play rugby at my club, Stoneygate.
“After that I would go out on the town and have a few beers. I can’t wait.”
I ask him what he feels he has learned on the trip and he says: “I thought I was one man and his rucksack against the Amazon.
“Instead I found I needed a great team around me.
“I couldn’t have done it without Cho, my family or my friends.”
For more information go to walkingtheamazon.com.

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The MasterLiving Blog


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Top 3 Designer Defence Systems


As we touched down with the Embraer EMB 120 in Geneva the other day, the lot was filled with sparsely coloured twin-turboprops of varying decent. The odd FlyBaboo Dash-8 and Swiss A320 were idling at the regular gates, but this is clearly not an airport made for regular passenger travel. It seems unfitting, somehow.

We were in this western Canton to discuss one of the most pressing challenges facing modern nation building today – the design of land-based artillery systems. Building a modern army is not simply a matter of heading down to IDEX in Abu Dhabi and buying the first armoured mortar system in sight. It takes commitment to the real issues involved in creating a sustainable defence system. Design being the primary concern, of course.
Our dinner discussions were long and infused by the local grapes from Domaine de Champlong, but we thought we’d summarize where the state of elegantly designed defence equipment stands, as of May 2010.
1. General Dynamics ASCOD2
Originally released back in 1992, this marvellous little collaboration between Santa Bárbara Sistemas and Steyr Daimler Puch in Austria got an update in 2003. We especially have our eyes on the Advanced Surveillance Vehicle, VCOAV.
2. CTA MTIP2
Sometimes, it’s all about the accessories. Add this turret to anything terrain-driven, and you’ve got yourself a handsome fighting machine.
3. M198 Howitzer

A classic that must be mentioned in these circumstances. 70′s designs are generally speaking nothing to write home about, but this field artillery unit has a certain je-ne-sais-quoi that refuses to fade.





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