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April 30, 2010

Poem du jour

Great Western Road

I am like the kind of man you'll sometimes see out late at night
walking, head down, into the rain, no money left for the night bus home,
a little unsure where his next step will come from ... His only friend
the tiny dog who runs beside him, head down too, thinking, no doubt,
doggie thoughts which, were I to translate them, would be both sad and true.

Andrew Elliot

Listening to Peter Gabriel

April 29, 2010

on Sugar  

The bitter history of sugar
a review of Elizabeth Abbott's
SUGAR
A bittersweet history
453pp. Duckworth. £20. 978 0 7156 3878 1

A new study outlines the unbearable conditions of the slaves who worked to satisfy the world's sweet tooth
Bee Wilson It is hardly news that the story of cane sugar is not all sweet. In 1788, in “The Negro’s Complaint”, William Cowper lamented the link between sugar and slavery:

Why did all-creating Nature
Make the plant for which we toil? . . .
Think how many Backs have smarted
For the sweets your Cane affords.

Of all the plantation crops of the Atlantic slave trade – tobacco, cotton, coffee – the most pernicious was sugar. Seventy per cent of slaves on New World plantations were involved in sugar production.
The problem lay partly in the nature of sugar cane itself, as Sidney Mintz wrote in his seminal work of anthropology, Sweetness and Power (1985). This giant thirsty grass, filled with sweet pulpy sap, has always been unusually labour-intensive to grow, harvest and process, requiring lots of water and sun as it grows and clamorous attention to turn the sap into crystalline sugar. As Mintz wrote, sugar cane is “inherently perishable”: it “must be cut when it is ripe, and ground as soon as it is cut. These simple facts give a special character to any enterprise dedicated to the production of sugar”. After the cane was cut, the sap on slave plantations was immediately boiled numerous times and eventually crystallized in inferno-like boiling houses. In 1700 Thomas Tryon, a colonist in Barbados, described the conditions in such houses, places of “perpetual noise and hurry” where slaves were forced to work throughout the six-month growing season:
"The Climate is so hot, and the labor so constant, that the Servants \[or slaves\] night and day stand in great Boyling Houses, where there are six or seven large Coppers or Furnaces kept perpetually Boyling; and from which heavy Ladles and Scummers they Skim off the excrementious parts of the Canes, till it comes to its perfection and cleanness, while others as Stoakers, Broil as it were, alive, in managing the Fires."
read more The life of a sugar slave in Barbados in the eighteenth century – Age of Enlightenment – does not bear contemplating: the cuts and abrasions from the spiky cane itself in the fields; the risk of losing fingers in the mills; the inadequate rations (despite being surrounded – taunted – by so many sticky calories); the floggings and lashings and other ill-treatment from plantation owners, including the sexual abuse of women; and surpassing all, the lack of freedom: so much misery, as Mintz described, to feed the rising appetite of the British working classes for sugary tea, a substance which mitigated the misery of their own working lives. British per capita sugar consumption was 4lbs in 1700–09; 8lb in 1720–29; 12lbs in 1780–89; and 18lbs in 1800–09.
In 1807, the slave trade in the British Empire was finally abolished. But the British appetite for sweetness continued to grow. And the world of the new “free” sugar workers in the British West Indies was not much superior to that of the slaves. One of the great strengths of Elizabeth Abbott’s readable overview of the history of sugar across the globe is the way it brings to life the continuing and varied iniquities of sugar production in a post-slavery era. In the British West Indies, a system of slavery was replaced by one of indentureship – a technical emancipation which probably did not feel much like liberty to the indentured workers.
The first influx of “coolies” from India and Madeira “died in such numbers”, writes Abbott, “that the indenture system was briefly halted and slightly modified before it was relaunched”. Desperately poor workers were recruited in India and bundled on to a twenty-six-week passage to the West Indies, where they were given flimsy living quarters still known as “nigger yards” and set to work for as much as twenty-two hours a day.
Under the system, if they did not complete their tasks, they received no money. Coolies were often cheated out of their wages, with one planter stopping a whole work gang’s wages for three months to pay for a single missing fork. Working conditions were vile: “Water was scarce and putrid, and few planters provided iron water tanks. Pigs and cattle roamed freely, and their effluvia added to the general filth”. Things were no better for the Chinese indentured workers put to work in nineteenth-century Cuba and Peru. Here, they were often kidnapped or hoodwinked and signed up for an eight-year indentureship – as against five years in the British West Indies. Visiting Chinese officials found a workforce in which “almost every Chinese met by us was or had been undergoing suffering. The fractured and maimed limbs, blindness, the heads full of sores, the skin and flesh lacerated – proofs of cruelty patent to the eyes of all”. As many as 50 per cent of Chinese indentured sugar workers – who were forced to answer to new Spanish names – died during their first year of indentureship. There is a horrible loneliness to cane-cutting, for the high grass obscures your fellow workers; the suicide rate was high among these homesick Chinese “coolies”, whether by hanging or jumping into hot sugar cauldrons.
So much for freedom. Even now, Abbott shows, the lives of cane cutters in many parts of the world are unimaginably grim. Starting in 1791, Toussaint L’Ouverture led a successful slave revolt against French rule in Saint-Domingue, the French colony which at that time produced 40 per cent of the world’s sugar; the result was the independent state of Haiti, which seemed to promise a new life for its inhabitants. Today, hundreds of thousands of black Haitians work the cane fields of the Dominican Republic in conditions not unlike those suffered by their ancestors before Toussaint’s revolt. Abbott travels to the Dominican Republic, where she finds that Haitian workers – some of them adolescents, most illegal immigrants – are not supplied with arm or shin guards “and their flesh bears the scars and gouges of their dangerous profession”. Their pay is US$1.20 per ton of sugar and they live “in shared shanties without water, toilets, or cooking facilities”. She hints at similar injustice in sugar production in El Salvador and Brazil and writes too of how sugar cane has trashed the environment, causing, according to the World Wildlife Fund, “a greater loss of biodiversity on the planet than any other single crop, due to its destruction of habitat to make way for plantations, its intensive use of water for irrigation, its heavy use of agricultural chemicals and the polluted waste-water that is routinely discharged during the sugar production process”.
Yet after listing this litany of horrors, all set in motion to satisfy the world’s sweet tooth, Abbott moves from the realm of “is” to that of “ought”, suggesting all of a sudden that biofuel in the form of sugar ethanol might enable cane sugar completely to remodel its filthy past. Instead of making us toothless and fat, sugar could be used to reduce our oil reliance. And all at once, sugar production would become a utopia. “Equitably paid workers committed to organic, environment-friendly farming will support the sustainable development [of sugar for ethanol]”, she optimistically announces: “fairly traded, environmentally sound and renewable sugarcane and beet should lead the ethanol revolution”.
After the misery of what has come before, this Pollyannaish prediction seems jarring (setting aside the question of whether biofuels are actually a good use for edible crops). Abbott lacks Sidney Mintz’s ability to link up the production of sugar with its consumption. Her chapters on the culinary uses of sugar are much weaker than those on the plantations and are marred by factual inaccuracies: for example, she states that before sugar cane was known in Europe, “people sweetened their food with the more expensive honey”, when in fact honey was far cheaper than sugar in Britain until around 1800, which was a large part (albeit only a part) of why people chose honey in preference to sugar; when sugar prices fell, honey consumption fell and sugar consumption rocketed. Another example: in a cliché of food history, Abbott contrasts British water during the Industrial Revolution (“often tainted”) with beer (“safe to drink and nutritious”). Yet beer itself during this period was often diluted with the said unsafe water and then padded with a range of nasty adulterants, including coculus indicus, a convulsive, which hardly made it “nutritious”.
A more fundamental flaw is Abbott’s inability to ask the really interesting questions about her subject. Could the world sugar trade have grown in the spectacular way it did from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries without plantation slavery? If so, how? And what would it actually take to remodel sugar production into the fair and equitable form she suggests? Scholarly opinion differs as to whether the Arab sugar trade of medieval times was free of slavery, but it certainly didn’t create the same monstrous factory-fields as British-ruled Barbados; but then, the Mediterranean view of sugar was more that of a condiment, to be used sparingly, than the working-class staple it would later become. India – where delicious jaggery is melted into rich rice puddings – provides an alternative model of sugar production, since it has never been plantation-based. In India, writes Abbott, most cane “comes from small peasant holdings and is processed in mills owned either by private capitalists or . . . peasant cooperatives”. And now there is fair-trade certified sugar, much of it produced in Africa, though Abbott, oddly, does not discuss any details of production on fair-trade sugar farms.
The sweet-toothed among us would like to hear whether a life spent in those high lonely grasses of the cane fields has ever been bearable; whether our cravings for muscovado and demerara can ever be justified; or whether we should all switch to maple syrup, tapped by happy Canadians.

Bee Wilson is the author of The Hive: The story of the honeybee and us, published in paperback in 2005. Swindled: From poison sweets to counterfeit coffee – the dark history of the food cheats, appeared in paperback earlier last year.



The Economist: Kill Me Quick



Kill me quick
Kenya’s lethal brew deserves its name

Apr 29th 2010 | NAIROBI | From The Economist print edition

THE Korogocho slum is one of the poorest in Nairobi, Kenya’s teeming capital. Its 120,000 residents occupy a stinking square kilometre by the city rubbish dump. Nearly three-quarters are under 30 years old. Many are alcoholics.
The equivalent of $1 is enough to buy four glasses of illegally brewed chang’aa—and oblivion. Some drink the local special, jet-five, so called because the fermentation of maize and sorghum is sped up with pilfered jet fuel. It can damage the brain. Elsewhere in Nairobi, chang’aa is spiked with embalming fluid from mortuaries.
The name, meaning literally “kill me quick”, is well chosen. This and other methanol-based kickers are sometimes fatal: 10ml of methanol can burn the optic nerve; 30ml can kill. Even without the kicker the brew is impure. The water is filthy with fecal matter. When police recently made some raids, decomposing rats and women’s underwear were found in servings of chang’aa. But the price and the potency are more tempting than the heavily taxed bottles of beer that are the staple of richer Kenyans.
Kenya is not alone. The UN’s World Health Organisation reckons that half of all alcohol drunk in Africa is illegal. Neighbouring Uganda may consume more alcohol per person than any country in the world. Much of this is waragi, a banana gin. Some 100 Ugandans died from toxic waragi in April alone. Botswana, arguably sub-Saharan Africa’s most successful country, serves up laela mmago, meaning “goodbye mum”.
East African Breweries is one of Kenya’s biggest companies and taxpayers. It wants to see illicit chang’aa replaced with a safer commercial version. Yet bringing the price of alcohol down to that of water risks increasing alcoholism and forcing the very poorest into even dodgier booze dens. In any case, it could add other costs: crime, violence to women and children, unsafe sex and bad health. Catholic priests in Korogocho host an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, but in Kenya, as elsewhere in Africa, state help for recovering alcoholics is rare.
What is clear is that urbanisation is changing the way alcohol is drunk. Illicit brews smooth dealmaking and reconciliation in the countryside. But in the sprawling city slums, where most of Nairobi’s people live, they are more often a cheap way of blotting out a sense of abandonment.

Listening to Micah P. Hanson

2005





2006

April 28, 2010

Poem du jour

Poem du jour  


The Night Chapel
by Peter Bennet

Although the floor beneath our hooves is pasture
the grass is not enough. We're brought

each evening to this room of darkening air
where cantors lead us with our throats

extended in the bleating prayer
we know instinctively - unlike the goats

who learn their raucous chants by rote -
which begs our ovine gods for human posture

and proper meals of cake and caviar.
Set free at last from scabies and the bloat

we'll ride to town at dawn on Shanks's mare
like upright citizens in woollen coats

to promulgate the cause and flock to vote
for sheep-pens and the abattoir.

April 27, 2010

ITV 2007 The Muslim Jesus



An interesting documentary about the role of Jesus in Qur'an. One of the most amazing things is the sound of it, always intoned, as it was intended to be heard not read, just like Homer's works.

April 26, 2010

Дурнейшая бесконечность



Дурнейшая бесконечность


Владимир Мартынов о финальных произведениях искусства и современной рутине




литература, развитие / Истинное творчество или художественная рутина?Сальвадор Дали. Кубистический автопортрет, 1923. Музей Сальвадора Дали
Владимир Иванович Мартынов (р. 1946) – современный русский историк и теоретик музыки, композитор-минималист, философ. Автор разножанровых музыкальных произведений от додекафонно-серийных композиций до богослужебной музыки, а также саундтреков к более чем 50 фильмам ("Холодное лето 53-го", "Николай Вавилов", "Русский бунт", "Остров" и др.). Автор книг "История богослужебного пения" (1994), "Пение, игра и молитва в русской богослужебнопевческой системе" (1997), "Культура, иконосфера и богослужебное пение Московской Руси" (2000), "Конец времени композиторов" (2002), "Зона Opus Posth, или Рождение новой реальности" (2005), "Пестрые прутья Иакова" (2009; 2010), "Казус Vita Nova" (2010). Произведения Мартынова исполняли В. Спиваков, Ю. Башмет, Г. Кремер, А. Любимов, Т. Гринденко, А. Батагов, Ансамбль Дмитрия Покровского, Kronos Quartet и др. Лауреат Государственной премии России (2003).


В отличие от многих могильщиков европейской, интерпретаторов апокалипсических судорог и прочих предвещателей мрака,

Владимир Мартынов связывает с «концом времени литературы» надежды на новый виток развития, переход на следующую эволюционную ступень. Чем это нам грозит, попытался выяснить

Михаил Бойко.

– Владимир Иванович, в «Пестрых прутьях Иакова» вы пишете: «Во время наших традиционных встреч с Приговым за кружкой пива в Доме композиторов наши разговоры порой упирались в тот факт, что в молодом поколении литераторов и композиторов нет никого, кто наступал бы нам на пятки, кто был бы радикальнее нас и кто бы мог противостоять нам». Но если подойти формально, то разве рубка икон Тер-Оганяном не радикальнее перформансов Пригова?
– Сейчас есть более радикальные формы и в видеоарте, и в сети, и других экспериментальных направлениях. Но мы с Приговым говорили в основном о традиционно академических вещах. Пригов все-таки поэт, а я композитор. Пригов сетовал на то, что для молодых литераторов и композиторов наш опыт как бы не существует. То, что сегодня царит в музыке, – это, по сути, авангард 60-х, то есть то, от чего мы уходили. За современной поэзией я не особо слежу, но, насколько знаю, в нее опять вернулось прямое поэтическое высказывание, хотя казалось, что после Пригова это уже невозможно. Поэты ведут себя так, как будто Пригова вообще не было. Они пишут как Пушкин или Мандельштам.

– Только с современной лексикой. Ну плюс еще верлибр…
– Как будто не было концептуального поворота, который произошел в 70-е годы. И самое странное, что это касается и Пригова. Последние эссе Пригова напоминают эфир радиостанции «Свобода» или «Эхо Москвы» – и настроения, и обличения совершенно идентичны. Таким образом, тот всплеск, который имел место в 70-е годы, впоследствии рассосался, и даже те люди, которые его осуществляли, были его проводниками в максимальной степени, сами сдали отвоеванные позиции, ушли с них.

– А что если пространство эксперимента в любом виде искусства изначально ограничено? Скажем, поэзия, да и вообще литература, в момент своего возникновения основана на прямом высказывании. Дальнейшее развитие литературы – это постепенное разрушение прямого высказывания вплоть до полного распада у концептуалистов. Но как только все стадии этого распада пройдены, цикл завершен, поле возможностей в данном виде искусства очерчено, и дальше возможно лишь совершенствование, но не новаторство. Может быть, неспроста сегодня такой интерес к видеоарту? Там цикл еще не пройден. Отсюда и следует, что литература и музыка, как вы доказываете, отныне обречены на рутинное состояние…
read more – У меня на этот счет более жесткая позиция. Я считаю, что в XX веке есть три рубежные вещи, после которых невозможно возвращение к прежнему. Это «Черный квадрат» Казимира Малевича, «Фонтан» Марселя Дюшана и «4'33"» Джона Кейджа, которые и определяют цивилизационные точки невозврата. Ситуация, складывающаяся вокруг этих вещей, напоминает мне ситуацию, о которой говорил Христос: «ибо как во дни перед потопом ели, пили, женились и выходили замуж до того дня, как вошел Ной в ковчег, и не думали, пока не пришел потоп и не истребил всех» (Мат. 24:38–39). Эти три вещи стоят перед нами как строящийся ковчег, а люди все равно пишут романы, симфонии, станковые картины.
Мне вообще кажется, что наш вид homo sapiens в нынешнем состоянии – это тупиковая ветвь эволюции. Ибо нам продемонстрированы такие вещи, присутствие которых этот вид не может вынести. Таким образом, история закончилась, а эволюция продолжается. Чтобы выйти из антропологического тупика мы должны сделать следующий эволюционный шаг.

– Какой?
– От палеолита нас отделяет так называемая «неолитическая революция», после которой появляется человек говорящий. Палеолитические изображения – это творения человека неговорящего. Затем рождается речь. Это грандиозный эволюционный шаг. Так вот, мне кажется, что на данный момент возможности этого шага исчерпаны, и те три произведения, о которых мы говорили, – тому свидетельство. Это вещи нового неговорящего человека. Чтобы двигаться дальше, нам надо забыть историю говорящего человека, но для этого нужно видовое изменение, переход на новую эволюционную ступень.

– И рождение нового способа коммуникации…
– Или замена коммуникации чем-то совсем другим. Вспоминая Витгенштейна, я заметил, что в какой-то момент мне стало неинтересным все, о чем можно говорить. И стало интересно то, о чем следует молчать. История кончилась, но эволюция-то продолжается. И, возможно, нас ожидают крупнейшие фундаментальные изменения, о которых предупреждал апостол Павел, говоря «не все умрем, но все изменимся».

– Мне кажется, что великие произведения, которые вы упомянули, завершают только живопись («Черный квадрат»), скульптуру («Фонтан») и музыку («4'33"»). А что завершает, например, театр?
– Может быть «Ожидание Годо» Сэмюэла Беккета? Хотя вряд ли…

– Мне кажется, что это одноактный спектакль, предложенный Владимиром Забалуевым и Алексеем Зензиновым «Театр в квадрате». Вкратце их идея в следующем: всю сцену занимает огромное сплошное зеркало, в котором зрители наблюдают себя в течение 15 или более минут. Вариант «Театр в кубе» предусматривает прямую трансляцию представления по ТВ. К сожалению, эта идея недостаточно раскручена и, насколько я знаю, никогда не была реализована практически. Интересно найти подобные примеры для других видом искусств. Что завершает, например, кинематограф?
– Кое-что можно предложить. Например, фильм «Империя» Энди Уорхола. Если вы помните, это небоскреб Эмпайр-стейт-билдинг, восемь часов показываемый с одной точки. Или фильм «Blue» Деррика Джармена, на протяжении которого зритель видит только голубой экран и слышит закадровый голос.

– «Черный квадрат», «Фонтан», «4'33"» – это примеры того, что Малевич назвал «ноль-формой», абсолютным минимумом. И «Театр в квадрате» – ноль-форма. Но я не уверен, что «Империя» и «Blue» – это абсолютные минимумы…
– Конечно, поп-арт немного разжижает эту идею. Он предметный. Тут нет ноля-формы. Супы, Мэрилин Монро – иконы общества потребления. Тут выстраивается новая мифология и социальная критика, но теряется чистота абсурда.

– Однако можно предположить, что искусство может неограниченно долго развиваться экстенсивно, то есть за счет освоения новых областей. Скажем, сейчас наиболее актуальны перформанс и видеоарт. Рано или поздно в этих областях появиться ноль-форма, которая потенциально завершает цикл. Но технический прогресс не стоит на месте, появляются новые средства коммуникации, осваиваются новые области, например, «виртуальная реальность». И в каждой из этих областей возможен новый цикл развития…
– Получается, что и «Черный квадрат», и «Фонтан», и «4'33"» – все это всуе. Получается, мы относимся к ним не так серьезно, как они того заслуживают.
Это страшные, финальные вещи, они объявляют, что дальше невозможно идти, а мы все равно это делаем. Мы как бы выставляем защитный барьер. Утверждая, что «Черный квадрат» – это всего лишь картина в ряду других картин, Малевич – просто художник, Кейдж – просто композитор, пьеса «4'33"» звучит в концертах, каждый может прийти и прослушать ее, «Фонтан» в форме писсуара стоит в музее и т.д. Тем самым мы пытаемся поместить эти культурные артефакты в ряд других культурных артефактов, чтобы они не заграждали нам возможность продолжать заниматься искусством. Нам нужно стать другими существами, перейти на следующую эволюционную ступень.

– Но эволюция в некотором роде тоже дурная бесконечность. Ну совершим мы скачок, завершим другой мегацикл и вновь окажемся перед необходимостью очередного эволюционного скачка…
– Возможно, это дурная бесконечность, но то, что творится здесь у нас сейчас – это просто дурнейшая бесконечность. Все исчерпано. Сколько можно этим заниматься?

– Но нельзя ли предположить, что у искусства, как у абсолютной шкалы температур, есть конец только с одной стороны. Есть абсолютный минимум температуры (примерно минус 273 градуса по шкале Цельсия), ему соответствуют ноль-формы в искусстве, но нет абсолютного максимума температуры. Любое искусство можно шлифовать и совершенствовать до бесконечности…
– Действительно предела совершенствованию нет, но оно теряет смысл, превращаясь в художественный промысел. Я называю это художественной рутиной. И «Черный квадрат» может превратиться в рутину, если сейчас мы займемся супрематизмом, как художественной практикой.

– Я постоянно ломаю голову: почему же, несмотря на конец литературы, литературный балаганчик продолжает работать. Нам понятно, что нельзя писать фразами, вроде «Марья Ивановна всплеснула руками и подошла к накрытому столу». Подлежащее сказуемое, дополнение… Однако пишут и весьма борзо. Идет лавинообразное накопление словесной массы, пишут, пишут. Балаганчик работает.
– Недавно смотрел «Школу злословия», там две ведущие-литературоманки, одна из них сказала: «Литература может все». Мне кажется, это все равно, что сказать: «Наука знает много гитик». То же самое в композиторской среде, всерьез обсуждают какую-то новую скрипичную сонату. А от литераторов то и дело слышишь: вот писатель X написал новый роман, всем рекомендую, нельзя оторваться. Может быть, у меня что-то с головой не то, но мне это немного смешно. Но они этого не чувствуют.

– А вдруг чувствуют, но у них негласный корпоративный сговор. Если они признают, что симфоническая музыка и литература завершили свой цикл развития, то деньги, которые все еще на это выделяются, исчезнут.
– Вряд ли. Мне, например, кажется, что эти две дамы, ведущие «Школы злословия», вполне искренни, больны какой-то литературной наркоманией. Одна из них вполне серьезно готова поцеловать страницу с понравившейся ей фразой, написанной присутствующим в студии писателем. Мне кажется, что это чистая любовь к литературе. Обсуждают что-то, какие-то рецензии пишут, литературная жизнь кипит.

– Может быть, эти люди просто не задаются вопросом «зачем», о последних мотивациях?
– Для них это эмоции, удовольствие, творчество, пожалуй, что самое страшное, для них это жизнь. Лучше быть лукавым циником, чем таким искренним ценителем. В какой-то передаче Караулов спрашивает у Тихона Хренникова: а написали бы вы сейчас оперу «Мать»? Я думал, он сошлется на время, на конъюнктуру, на культ личности… Но Хренников сказал: «Мать» – это великое произведение, я бы сейчас даже и лучше написал. Ну о чем тут говорить?

– Мне кажется, есть категория людей, которые пишут, как дерево растет. Но одно дерево ничем принципиально не отличается от соседнего, и они все вместе растут. На сайте «Стихи.ру» 100 тысяч поэтов. И они не задаются вопросом «зачем». Один вдох ничем существенно не отличается от предыдущего вдоха, но это не мешает же нам дышать?
– Наверное, мне могут сказать: что ты паникуешь, смотри, какая у нас насыщенная концертная жизнь, слушатели в восторге.
Они могут привести и другие аргументы. Скажем, в 1882 году в Париже Полом Билходом была выставлена абсолютно черная прямоугольная картина под названием «Ночная драка негров в подвале». Затем художник Альфонс Алле в 1883 году выставил картину «Малокровные девочки, идущие к первому причастию в снежной буре», представляющую собой белый прямоугольник, а в 1884 году продемонстрировал красный прямоугольник под названием «Апоплексические кардиналы, собирающие помидоры на берегах Красного моря».

– Есть римская пословица: если двое делают одно и то же – это не одно и то же.
– Конечно, у Алле это были несерьезные провокативные картины. А у Малевича это было мощнейшее откровение. После создания «Черного квадрата» он не мог ни спать, ни есть, ни пить. Для моих учителей, а я ходил еще на уроки к Генриху Нейгазу, Якову Заку, это было чистейшим бредом. Они считали, что искусство вечно и, покуда человек живет, он занимается музыкальным творчеством. Их невозможно было переубедить, для них это действительно была жизнь. Но сейчас мы видим их ассистентов и ассистентов их ассистентов, под утверждением о вечности искусства это ставит жирный вопросительный знак.

– А конец времени философии можно констатировать?
– Да, и многие с этим согласятся. Повторю, речь идет об исчерпанности нас как вида, чем бы мы ни занимались.
Но мне не хотелось бы, чтобы это воспринималось в пессимистическом тоне. Мы стоим на пороге какого-то сильного, принципиального изменения. Главное не прозевать его.

– Футурологи прогнозируют киборгизацию.
– Это одна из реальных возможностей. Многие художники идут по этой линии сознательно. Но мне кажется, что это не самая отрадная из перспектив. Хотя ее нельзя исключать.

– Другой путь связан с активной эволюцией, с редактированием ДНК…
– И тот, и другой путь являются технологическими, то есть изменения происходят из-за внедрения новых технологий. Я думаю, что переворот будет внутренним. Если сознание будет повернуто в другую сторону, тогда уже и технологии обретут другой смысл. А сейчас получается, что мы полностью зависим от развития этих технологий. Не мы направляем их, но они направляют нас.
Неолитическая революция была и внутренней, и внешней, и технологической, и связанной с сознанием. Если технологическому перевороту не будет сопутствовать внутренний поворот, могут реализоваться самые пессимистические сценарии.

– Но это не обязательно будет переворот в области слова, вроде появления нового дискурса или расширения уже существующего? Это будет связано с чувствами, душевной сферой, с отказом от привычных типов мышлений, от аристотелевской логики. Так?
– Мы все время говорим о каком-то отказе. А нужно говорить о приобретении, которое мы пока что не ощущаем как приобретение. «4'33"» – это новое взаимоотношение с реальностью. Ведь в чем недостаток языка по сравнению с сознанием? Он отстраняет от реальности, он описывает, он преобразует, а человек создан для того, чтобы пребывать в реальности. «4'33"» – это чистое пребывание в реальности. Если человек уделит больше внимания подобным вещам, может возникнуть новый эволюционный вид. Кейдж доказывает, что это возможно. И не только Кейдж. Иисусова молитва, буддистские мантры – провозвестники того, что человек может находиться с реальностью в других отношениях. Не преобразовывать, не описывать реальность, но пребывать в ней.

– Недостаток слова в том, что оно не исчерпывает сущность предмета, а только его называет?
– Мне кажется, в обращении со словом есть два пути – путь мальчика и путь девочки. Путь мальчика: задавать вопросы, воспринимать язык, как зеркало, считать, что реальность мы можем увидеть только в зеркале языка. Путь девочки: проходить сквозь слово как Алиса сквозь зеркало. Эволюционный скачок не означает, что мы не будем употреблять слова. Мы будем их употреблять, но только для того, чтобы проходить сквозь них. И «Заклятие смехом» Хлебникова, и Иисусова молитва – это слова, которые созданы именно для того, чтобы, пройдя сквозь них, оказаться в Засловье.
«Черный квадрат» – это великое апофатическое высказывание, формула, написанная красками на холсте. «Фонтан» – это абсолютная палеолитическая диспластия. Здесь слова вообще не может быть, это дословесный артефакт.
Вся история нашей цивилизации заключена между двумя точками. Начальной точкой являются египетские пирамиды, а конечной – «Черный квадрат». «Черный квадрат» – это предрассветный крик петуха. Мы можем сколько угодно писать романы и симфонии, но этот крик обессмысливает все, что мы делаем. Позже это будет очевидно.

– То есть сейчас настоящий авангардист – это тот, кто пытается пройти сквозь слова как сквозь зеркало?
– Да. И это может быть связано с бесконечным обилием слов. Для меня ориентиром является «Улисс», вернее, две его последние главы «Итака» и «Пенелопа». «Итака» – это абсолютный катехизис, вопросы и ответы – путь мальчика. «Пенелопа» – абсолютно несинтаксический поток сознания, путь девочки. И мне кажется, что сейчас наступает время этого пути – время Алисы.

April 25, 2010

NYT on Citizenship



WASHINGTON — Amid mounting frustration over taxation and banking problems, small but growing numbers of overseas Americans are taking the weighty step of renouncing their citizenship.
“What we have seen is a substantial change in mentality among the overseas community in the past two years,” said Jackie Bugnion, director of American Citizens Abroad, an advocacy group based in Geneva. “Before, no one would dare mention to other Americans that they were even thinking of renouncing their U.S. nationality. Now, it is an openly discussed issue.”
The Federal Register, the government publication that records such decisions, shows that 502 expatriates gave up their U.S. citizenship or permanent residency status in the last quarter of 2009. That is a tiny portion of the 5.2 million Americans estimated by the State Department to be living abroad.
Still, 502 was the largest quarterly figure in years, more than twice the total for all of 2008, and it looms larger, given how agonizing the decision can be. There were 235 renunciations in 2008 and 743 last year. Waiting periods to meet with consular officers to formalize renunciations have grown.
Anecdotally, frustrations over tax and banking questions, not political considerations, appear to be the main drivers of the surge. Expat advocates say that as it becomes more difficult for Americans to live and work abroad, it will become harder for American companies to compete.
American expats have long complained that the United States is the only industrialized country to tax citizens on income earned abroad, even when they are taxed in their country of residence, though they are allowed to exclude their first $91,400 in foreign-earned income.
One Swiss-based business executive, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of sensitive family issues, said she weighed the decision for 10 years. She had lived abroad for years but had pleasant memories of service in the U.S. Marine Corps.
Yet the notion of double taxation — and of future tax obligations for her children, who will receive few U.S. services — finally pushed her to renounce, she said.
read more “I loved my time in the Marines, and the U.S. is still a great country,” she said. “But having lived here 20 years and having to pay and file while seeing other countries’ nationals not having to do that, I just think it’s grossly unfair.”
“It’s taxation without representation,” she added.
Stringent new banking regulations — aimed both at curbing tax evasion and, under the Patriot Act, preventing money from flowing to terrorist groups — have inadvertently made it harder for some expats to keep bank accounts in the United States and in some cases abroad.
Some U.S.-based banks have closed expats’ accounts because of difficulty in certifying that the holders still maintain U.S. addresses, as required by a Patriot Act provision.
“It seems the new anti-terrorist rules are having unintended effects,” Daniel Flynn, who lives in Belgium, wrote in a letter quoted by the Americans Abroad Caucus in the U.S. Congress in correspondence with the Treasury Department.
“I was born in San Francisco in 1939, served my country as an army officer from 1961 to 1963, have been paying U.S. income taxes for 57 years, since 1952, have continually maintained federal voting residence, and hold a valid American passport.”
Mr. Flynn had held an account with a U.S. bank for 44 years. Still, he wrote, “they said that the new anti-terrorism rules required them to close our account because of our address outside the U.S.”
Kathleen Rittenhouse, who lives in Canada, wrote that until she encountered a similar problem, “I did not know that the Patriot Act placed me in the same category as terrorists, arms dealers and money launderers.”
Andy Sundberg, another director of American Citizens Abroad, said, “These banks are closing our accounts as acts of prudent self-defense.” But the result, he said, is that expats have become “toxic citizens.”
The Americans Abroad Caucus, headed by Representative Carolyn B. Maloney, Democrat of New York, and Representative Joe Wilson, Republican of South Carolina, has made repeated entreaties to the Treasury Department.
In response, Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner wrote Ms. Maloney on Feb. 24 that “nothing in U.S. financial law and regulation should make it impossible for Americans living abroad to access financial services here in the United States.”
But banks, Treasury officials note, are free to ignore that advice.
“That Americans living overseas are being denied banking services in U.S. banks, and increasingly in foreign banks, is unacceptable,” Ms. Maloney said in a letter Friday to leaders of the House Financial Services Committee, requesting a hearing on the question.
Mr. Wilson, joining her request, said that pleas from expats for relief “continue to come in at a startling rate.”
Relinquishing citizenship is relatively simple. The person must appear before a U.S. consular or diplomatic official in a foreign country and sign a renunciation oath. This does not allow a person to escape old tax bills or military obligations.
Now, expats’ representatives fear renunciations will become more common.
“It is a sad outcome,” Ms. Bugnion said, “but I personally feel that we are now seeing only the tip of the iceberg.”





April 24, 2010

An exhibit to attend






Dead or Alive
April 27 - October 24, 2010

Dead or Alive, presented by the Museum of Arts and Design from April 27 through October 24, 2010, will showcase the work of over 30 international artists who transform organic materials and objects that were once produced by or part of living organisms-insects, feathers, bones, silkworm cocoons, plant materials, and hair-to create intricately crafted and designed installations and sculptures.
The exhibition explores a territory related to MAD's Second Lives: Remixing the Ordinary, which featured contemporary works created from multiples of ordinary manufactured items. In Dead or Alive, the materials transformed by the artists are entirely natural. Once-living parts of flora and fauna are recombined and rearranged into works of art that address the transience of life, and all that is elegant and alarming about the natural world.
Dead or Alive features new site-specific installations and recent work by contemporary artists from around the world, including Jennifer Angus, Nick Cave, Tessa Farmer, Tim Hawkinson, Jochem Hendricks, Damien Hirst, Alastair Mackie, Kate MccGwire, Susie MacMurray, Shen Shaomin, and Levi van Veluw among others. A special weeklong visitor preview starting Thursday, April 22, will allow MAD visitors to observe artists as they create and install site- specific works in the museum galleries.
New commissions include works by Costa Rican artist Lucia Madriz, who will create a massive, politically charged floor installation made from black beans and rice; German artist Christiane Löhr, who fabricates fragile nests of thistle and dandelion silk suspended in the air; American artist Jennifer Angus, known for her architectural interiors covered with thousands of dried insects that are pinned to mimic vintage wallpaper; and Kate MccGwire who will create a large cascade of 1000s of pigeon feathers emanating from one of MAD's signature glass bands that cut across the gallery ceilings. Chinese artist Shen Shaomin has created an imaginary animal skeleton made from pulverized bones; and internationally renowned installation artist Xu Bing will make a shadow version of a 24-foot Song Dynasty painting using only vegetable detritus, weeds, leaves, and roots.

April 23, 2010

The clowns are back!



The President of Turkmenistan has performed a dramatic about-turn and lifted a ban on opera and circuses that was imposed by his eccentric predecessor.
Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov ended the seven-year ban in his latest move to dismantle a personality cult surrounding the late dictator Saparmurat Niyazov, who styled himself Turkmenbashi or “Father of the Turkmen”.
Mr Niyazov ordered the opera house to close in 2001, declaring “who needs Tosca or La Traviata any more”? He shut the state ballet and circus companies because he said that scantily clad women offended Turkmen morality.
Mr Berdymukhamedov promised to restore performances and to revive cinema-going in the former Soviet republic. He told a meeting of Turkmen artists and intellectuals in the capital, Ashgabat: “I propose to breathe life back into the lyrical arts in this country. It is regrettable to see there are no good cinemas in Ashgabat. Cinemas are currently used for other purposes and will need a complete renovation before they can revert to their original function.
“It is also time to rebuild and reopen the building that housed the Turkmenistan state circus, bringing back circus spectacles including popular national equestrian shows.”
Mr Berdymukhamedov, 50, made no mention of ballet but said that Turkmenistan would stage its first opera production this summer. It is not clear where performers will come from, however, as the company was broken up after Turkmenbashi outlawed Verdi and Wagner.
read more Mr Berdymukhamedov told his audience, in remarks broadcast on national television, that Turkmenistan “absolutely should have a worthy operatic theatre and a worthy state circus”.
He noted that Ashgabat had only two cinemas, both badly dilapidated, and said that he would restore them as well as build a new cinema house. Libraries would be replenished with new books.
Mr Niyazov had described opera and ballet as alien to the “national mentality”. He demolished the opera and ballet theatre, closed the state circus and scrapped funding for cinemas and local libraries.
Instead, he splashed out millions of pounds in earnings from Turkmenistan's vast gas reserves on vanity projects, including a rotating gold statue of himself that always faced the sun. He built an ice palace, a ski resort and a 40-metre pyramid.
A collection of Turkmenbashi's thoughts, the Rukhnama (Book of the Spirit), was required reading in schools, workplaces and even as part of the driving test. Mr Niyazov also shortened compulsory schooling from ten years to nine and barred access to the internet.
He ruled with an iron fist from 1985 until his death from a heart attack aged 66 in December 2006. Other bizarre diktats included bans on lip-synching, car radios and beards, as well as the playing of recorded music at weddings.
Mr Berdymukhamedov, a former dentist, was Deputy Prime Minister when Turkmenbashi died and won 89 per cent of the vote last February in the country's first election since independence in 1991. Since then, he has gradually curbed the excesses of Turkmenbashi's reign.
He quietly dropped a golden symbol of Mr Niyazov from the corner of television screens in July. He reversed the cut in compulsory schooling, promised to send talented students to study abroad and opened a limited number of internet cafes.
He has also opened the door to foreign investors to develop the country's gas reserves, estimated to be the fifth largest in the world. Despite the huge potential riches, however, most of Turkmenistan's 5 million people still live in poverty.
In an apparent attempt to break further with Mr Niyazov's ideology, he described his reforms as part of a “New Revival” programme to promote a democratic market economy. The cultural thaw in a country once known as the North Korea of Central Asia has already led Mr Berdymukhamedov to encourage foreign embassies to stage film festivals in Ashgabat.
A festival of Japanese cinema was held last May and the United States screened a fortnight of films in October that opened, perhaps ironically, with Citizen Kane, Orson Welles's classic account of the rise and fall of a megalomaniac tycoon.

April 22, 2010

New Yorker on Terrorism



A few days after the September 11th attacks—which killed seven times as many people as any previous act of terrorism—President George W. Bush declared that the United States was engaged in a global war on terror. September 11th seemed to confirm that we were in a clash of civilizations between modernity and radical Islam. We had a worldwide enemy with a cause that was general, not specific (“They hate our freedoms”), and we now had to take on the vast, long-running mission—equal in scope to the Cold War—of defeating all ambitious terrorist groups everywhere, along with the states that harbored them. The war on terror wasn’t a hollow rhetorical trope. It led to the American conquest and occupation first of Afghanistan, which had sheltered the leaders of Al Qaeda, and then of Iraq, which had no direct connection to September 11th.
Today, few consider the global war on terror to have been a success, either as a conceptual framing device or as an operation. President Obama has pointedly avoided stringing those fateful words together in public. His foreign-policy speech in Cairo, last June, makes an apt bookend with Bush’s war-on-terror speech in Washington, on September 20, 2001. Obama not only didn’t talk about a war; he carefully avoided using the word “terrorism,” preferring “violent extremism.”
But if “global war” isn’t the right approach to terror what is? Experts on terrorism have produced shelves’ worth of new works on this question. For outsiders, reading this material can be a jarring experience. In the world of terrorism studies, the rhetoric of righteousness gives way to equilibrium equations. Nobody is good and nobody is evil. Terrorists, even suicide bombers, are not psychotics or fanatics; they’re rational actors—that is, what they do is explicable in terms of their beliefs and desires—who respond to the set of incentives that they find before them. The tools of analysis are realism, rational choice, game theory, decision theory: clinical and bloodless modes of thinking.
read more That approach, along with these scholars’ long immersion in the subject, can produce some surprising observations. In “A Question of Command: Counterinsurgency from the Civil War to Iraq” (Yale; $30), Mark Moyar, who holds the Kim T. Adamson Chair of Insurgency and Terrorism at the Marine Corps University, tells us that, in Afghanistan, the Taliban’s pay scale (financed by the protection payments demanded from opium farmers) is calibrated to be a generous multiple of the pay received by military and police personnel (financed by U.S. aid); no wonder official Afghan forces are no match for the insurgents. Audrey Kurth Cronin, a professor of strategy at the National War College, reminds us, in “How Terrorism Ends: Understanding the Decline and Demise of Terrorist Campaigns” (Princeton; $29.95), that one can find out about Al Qaeda’s policy for coördinating attacks by reading a book called “The Management of Barbarism,” by Abu Bakr Naji, which has been available via Al Qaeda’s online library. (Naji advises that, if jihadis are arrested in one country after an attack, a cell elsewhere should launch an attack as a display of resilience.) In “Radical, Religious, and Violent: The New Economics of Terrorism” (M.I.T.; $24.95), Eli Berman traces the origins of the Taliban to a phenomenon that long preceded the birth of modern radical Islam: they are a direct descendant of the Deobandi movement, which began in nineteenth-century India in opposition to British colonial rule and, among other things, established a system of religious schools.
What is terrorism, anyway? The expert consensus converges on a few key traits. Terrorists have political or ideological objectives (the purpose can’t be mere profiteering). They are “non-state actors,” not part of conventional governments. Their intention is to intimidate an audience larger than their immediate victims, in the hope of generating widespread panic and, often, a response from the enemy so brutal that it ends up backfiring by creating sympathy for the terrorists’ cause. Their targets are often ordinary civilians, and, even when terrorists are trying to kill soldiers, their attacks often don’t take place on the field of battle. The modern age of suicide terrorism can be said to have begun with Hezbollah’s attack, in October of 1983, on U.S. marines who were sleeping in their barracks in Beirut.
Once you take terrorists to be rational actors, you need a theory about their rationale. Robert Pape, a political scientist at the University of Chicago, built a database of three hundred and fifteen suicide attacks between 1980 and 2003, and drew a resoundingly clear conclusion: “What nearly all suicide terrorist attacks have in common is a specific secular and strategic goal: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from territory that the terrorists consider to be their homeland.” As he wrote in “Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism” (2005), what terrorists want is “to change policy,” often the policy of a faraway major power. Pape asserts that “offensive military action rarely works” against terrorism, so, in his view, the solution to the problem of terrorism couldn’t be simpler: withdraw. Pape’s “nationalist theory of suicide terrorism” applies not just to Hamas and Hezbollah but also to Al Qaeda; its real goal, he says, is the removal of the U.S. military from the Arabian Peninsula and other Muslim countries. Pape says that “American military policy in the Persian Gulf was most likely the pivotal factor leading to September 11”; the only effective way to prevent future Al Qaeda attacks would be for the United States to take all its forces out of the Middle East.
By contrast, Mark Moyar dismisses the idea that “people’s social, political, and economic grievances” are the main cause of popular insurgencies. He regards anti-insurgent campaigns as “a contest between elites.” Of the many historical examples he offers, the best known is L. Paul Bremer’s de-Baathification of Iraq, in the spring of 2003, in which the entire authority structure of Iraq was disbanded at a stroke, creating a leadership cadre for a terrorist campaign against the American occupiers. One of Moyar’s chapters is about the uncontrollably violent American South during Reconstruction—a subject that a number of authors have turned to during the war on terror—and it demonstrates better than his chapter on Iraq the power of his theory to offend contemporary civilian sensibilities. Rather than disempowering the former Confederates and empowering the freed slaves, Moyar says, the victorious Union should have maintained order by leaving the more coöperative elements of the slaveholding, seceding class in control. Effective counterinsurgency, he says, entails selecting the élites you can work with and co-opting them.
In “Talking to Terrorists: Why America Must Engage with Its Enemies” (Basic; $26.95), Mark Perry describes a little-known attempt to apply Moyar’s model in Iraq. The book jacket identifies Perry as “a military, intelligence, and foreign affairs analyst and writer,” but his writing conveys a strong impression that he has not spent his career merely watching the action from a safe seat in the bleachers. Much of the book is devoted to a detailed description, complete with many on-the-record quotes, of a series of meetings in Amman, Jordan, in 2004, between a group of Marine officers based in Anbar province, in western Iraq, and an Iraqi businessman named Talal al-Gaood. Gaood, a Sunni and a former member of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party, suggested he could broker a deal that would make the horrific, almost daily terrorist attacks in western Iraq go away.
Perry’s tone calls to mind a Tom Clancy novel. Tough, brave, tight-lipped officers do endless battle not just with the enemy in the field but also with cowardly, dissembling political bureaucrats in the Pentagon, the State Department, and the White House. The crux of his story is that a promising negotiation was tragically cut short, just as it was about to bear fruit, when the key negotiator, a Marine colonel, was “PNG’d”—declared persona non grata—by Washington and denied entry to Jordan. Not long after that, Gaood died suddenly, of a heart ailment, at the age of forty-four (according to Perry, he was so beloved that his wake had to be held in a soccer stadium), putting an end to any possibility of further talks. It’s startling to read about American military commanders in the field taking on a freelance diplomatic mission of this magnitude, and to imagine that there was a businessman in Amman who, on the right terms, could have snapped his fingers and ended what we back home thought of as pervasive, wild-eyed jihad.
What dominates the writing of experts about terrorism, however, is a more fine-grained idea of terrorists’ motives—at the level of ethnic group, tribe, village, and even individual calculation. Pape thinks of terrorists as being motivated by policy and strategic concerns; Cronin, of the National War College, shares Pape’s view that most terrorists are, essentially, terroirists—people who want control of land—but she is also attuned to their narrower, more local considerations. The odds are against them, because of the natural forces of entropy and their lack of access to ordinary military power and other resources, but, if they do succeed, they can be counted upon to try to ascend the ladder of legitimacy, first to insurgency, then to some kind of governing status. (Examples of that ultimate kind of success would be the Irgun and the Stern Gang, in Israel, Sinn Fein and the Provisional I.R.A., in Northern Ireland, and the Palestine Liberation Organization, in the West Bank and Gaza.)
Cronin goes through an elaborate menu of techniques for hastening the end of a terrorist campaign. None of them rise to the level of major policy, let alone a war on terror; in general, the smaller their scope the more effective Cronin finds them to be. She believes, for instance, that jailing the celebrated head of a terrorist organization is a more effective countermeasure than killing him. (Abimael Guzmán, the head of the Shining Path, in Peru, was, after his capture in 1992, “displayed in a cage, in a striped uniform, recanting and asking his followers to lay down their arms.” That took the wind out of the Shining Path’s sails. A surprise ambush that martyred him might not have.) Negotiating with terrorists—a practice usually forsworn, often done—can work in the long term, Cronin says, not because it is likely to produce a peace treaty but because it enables a state to gain intelligence about its opponents, exploit differences and hive off factions, and stall while time works its erosive wonders.
Cronin offers a confident prescription, based on her small-bore approach to terrorism, for defeating the apparently intractable Al Qaeda. The idea is to take advantage of the group’s highly decentralized structure by working to alienate its far-flung component parts, getting them to see their local interests as being at odds with Al Qaeda’s global ones. “Bin Laden and Zawahiri have focused on exploiting and displacing the local concerns of the Chechens, the Uighurs, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Salafist Group for Call and Combat in Algeria, and many others, and sought to replace them with an international agenda,” Cronin writes. The United States should now try to “sever the connection between Islamism and individualized local contexts for political violence, and then address them separately.” It should work with these local groups, not in an effort to convert them to democracy and love of America but in order to pry them away, one by one, from Al Qaeda. (“Calling the al-Qaeda movement ‘jihadi international,’ as the Israeli intelligence services do,” she writes, “encourages a grouping together of disparate threats that undermines our best counterterrorism. It is exactly the mistake we made when we lumped the Chinese and the Soviets together in the 1950s and early 1960s, calling them ‘international Communists.’ ”)
Eli Berman, an economist who has done field work among ultra-orthodox religious groups in Israel, is even more granular in his view of what terrorists want: he stresses the social services that terror and insurgent groups provide to their members. Berman’s book is an extended application to terrorism of an influential 1994 article by the economist Laurence Iannaccone, called “Why Strict Churches Are Strong.” Trying to answer the question of why religious denominations that impose onerous rules and demand large sacrifices of their members seem to thrive better than those which do not, Iannaccone surmised that strict religions function as economic clubs. They appeal to recruits in part because they are able to offer very high levels of benefits—not just spiritual ones but real services—and this involves high “defection constraints.” In denominations where it’s easy for individual members to opt out of an obligation, it is impossible to maintain such benefits. Among the religious groups Iannaccone has written about, impediments to defection can be emotionally painful, such as expulsion or the promise of eternal damnation; in many terrorist groups, the defection constraints reflect less abstract considerations: this-worldly torture, maiming, and murder.
Berman’s main examples are Hamas, Hezbollah, Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army, in Iraq, and the Taliban, whom Berman calls “some of the most accomplished rebels of modern times.” All these organizations, he points out, are effective providers of services in places where there is dire need of them. Their members are also subject to high defection constraints, because their education and their location don’t put them in the way of a lot of opportunity and because they know they will be treated brutally if they do defect.
Like most other terrorism experts, Berman sees no crevasse between insurgents and terrorists. Instead, he considers them to be members of a single category he calls “rebels,” who use a variety of techniques, depending on the circumstances. Suicide bombing represents merely one end of the spectrum; its use is an indication not of the fanaticism or desperation of the individual bomber (most suicide bombers—recall Muhammad Atta’s professional-class background—are not miserably poor and alienated adolescent males) but of the supremely high cohesion of the group. Suicide bombing, Berman notes, increases when the terrorist group begins to encounter hard targets, like American military bases, that are impervious to everything else. The Taliban used traditional guerrilla-warfare techniques when they fought the Northern Alliance in the mountains. When their enemies became Americans and other Westerners operating from protected positions and with advanced equipment, the Taliban were more likely to resort to suicide bombing. How else could a small group make a big impact?
The idea of approaching terrorists as rational actors and defeating them by a cool recalibration of their incentives extends beyond the academic realm. Its most influential published expression is General David Petraeus’s 2006 manual “Counterinsurgency.” Written in dry management-ese, punctuated by charts and tables, the manual stands as a rebuke of the excesses of Bush’s global war on terror.
“Soldiers and Marines are expected to be nation builders as well as warriors,” the introduction to the manual declares. “They must be prepared to help reestablish institutions and local security forces and assist in rebuilding infrastructure and basic services. They must be able to facilitate establishing local governance and the rule of law.” The manual’s most famous formulation is “clear-hold-build,” and its heaviest emphasis is on the third of those projects; the counterinsurgent comes across a bit like a tough but kindhearted nineteen-fifties cop, walking a beat, except that he does more multitasking. He collects garbage, digs wells, starts schools and youth clubs, does media relations, improves the business climate. What he doesn’t do is torture, kill in revenge, or overreact. He’s Gandhi in I.E.D.-proof armor.
Petraeus has clearly absorbed the theory that terrorist and insurgent groups are sustained by their provision of social services. Great swaths of the manual are devoted to elaborating ways in which counterinsurgents must compete for people’s loyalty by providing better services in the villages and tribal encampments of the deep-rural Middle East. It’s hard to think of a service that the manual doesn’t suggest, except maybe yoga classes. And, like Berman, the manual is skeptical about the utility, in fighting terrorism, of big ideas about morality, policy, or even military operations. Here’s a representative passage:
REMEMBER SMALL IS BEAUTIFUL
Another tendency is to attempt large-scale, mass programs. In particular, Soldiers and Marines tend to apply ideas that succeed in one area to another area. They also try to take successful small programs and replicate them on a larger scale. This usually does not work. Often small-scale programs succeed because of local conditions or because their size kept them below the enemy’s notice and helped them flourish unharmed. . . . Small-scale projects rarely proceed smoothly into large programs. Keep programs small.
One problem with such programs is that they can be too small, and too nice, to win the hearts and minds of the populace away from their traditional leaders. The former civil-affairs officer A. Heather Coyne tells the story, recounted in Berman’s book, of a program that offered people in Sadr City ten dollars a day to clean the streets—something right out of the counterinsurgency manual. The American colonel who was running the program went out to talk to people and find out how effective the program was at meeting its larger goal. This is what he heard: “We are so grateful for the program. And we’re so grateful to Muqtada al-Sadr for doing this program.” Evidently, Sadr had simply let it be known that he was behind this instance of social provision, and people believed him. For Berman, the lesson is “a general principle: economic development and governance can be at odds when the territory is not fully controlled by the government.” That’s a pretty discouraging admission—it implies that helping people peacefully in an area where insurgents are well entrenched may only help the insurgents.
One could criticize the manual from a military perspective, as Mark Moyar does, for being too nonviolent and social-worky. Moyar admires General Petraeus personally (Petraeus being the kind of guy who, while recuperating from major surgery at a hospital after taking a bullet during a live-ammunition exercise, had his doctors pull all the tubes out of his arm and did fifty pushups to prove that he should be released early). But Moyar is appalled by the manual’s tendency to downplay the use of force: “The manual repeatedly warned of the danger of alienating the populace through the use of lethal force and insisted that counterinsurgents minimize the use of force, even if in some instances it meant letting enemy combatants escape. . . . As operations in Iraq and elsewhere have shown, aggressive and well-led offensive operations to chase down insurgents have frequently aided the counterinsurgent cause by robbing the insurgents of the initiative, disrupting their activities, and putting them in prison or in the grave.”
Because terrorism is such an enormous problem—it takes place constantly, all over the world, in conflict zones and in big cities, in more and less developed countries—one can find an example of just about every anti-terrorist tactic working (or failing to). One of the most prolific contemporary terrorist groups, the Tamil Tigers, of Sri Lanka, appears to have been defeated by the Sinhalese Buddhist-dominated government, through a conventional, if unusually violent, military campaign, which ended last spring. In that instance, brutal repression seems to have been the key. But the Russians have tried that intermittently in Chechnya, without the same effect; the recent suicide bombing in the Moscow subway by Chechen terrorists prompted an Op-Ed piece in the Times by Robert Pape and two associates, arguing that the answer is for Russia to dial back its “indirect military occupation” of Chechnya.
The point of social science is to be careful, dispassionate, and analytical, to get beyond the lure of anecdote and see what the patterns really are. But in the case of counterterrorism the laboratory approach can’t be made to scan neatly, because there isn’t a logic that can be counted upon to apply in all cases. One could say that the way to reduce a group’s terrorist activity is by reaching a political compromise with it; Northern Ireland seems to be an example. But doing that can make terrorism more attractive to other groups—a particular risk for the United States, which operates in so many places around the world. After the Hezbollah attack on the Marine barracks, in 1983, President Ronald Reagan pulled out of Lebanon, a decision that may have set off more terrorism in the Middle East over the long term. Immediate, savage responses—George W. Bush, rather than Reagan—can work in one contained area and fail more broadly. If the September 11th attacks were meant in part to provoke a response that would make the United States unpopular in the Muslim world, they certainly succeeded.
Even if one could prove that a set of measured responses to specific terrorist acts was effective, or that it’s always a good idea to alter terrorists’ cost-benefit calculations, there’s the problem implied by the tactic’s name: people on the receiving end of terrorism, and not just the immediate victims, do, in fact, enter a state of terror. The emotion—and its companion, thirst for revenge—inevitably figure large in the political life of the targeted country. As Cronin dryly notes, “In the wake of major attacks, officials tend to respond (very humanly) to popular passions and anxiety, resulting in policy made primarily on tactical grounds and undermining their long-term interests. Yet this is not an effective way to gain the upper hand against nonstate actors.” The implication is that somewhere in the world there might be a politician with the skill to get people to calm down about terrorists in their midst, so that a rational policy could be pursued. That’s hard to imagine.
Another fundamental problem in counterterrorism emerges from a point many of the experts agree on: that terrorism, uniquely horrifying as it is, doesn’t belong to an entirely separate and containable realm of human experience, like the one occupied by serial killers. Instead, it’s a tactic whose aims bleed into the larger, endless struggle of people to control land, set up governments, and exercise power. History is about managing that struggle, sometimes successfully, sometimes not, rather than eliminating the impulses that underlie it.
For Americans, the gravest terrorist threat right now is halfway across the world, in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. On paper, in all three countries, the experts’ conceptual model works. Lesser terrorist groups remain violent but seem gradually to lose force, and greater ones rise to the level of political participation. At least some elements of the Taliban have been talking with the Afghan government, with the United States looking on approvingly. In Iraq, during the recent elections, some Sunni groups set off bombs near polling places, but others won parliamentary seats. Yet this proof of concept does not solve the United States’ terrorism problem. Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan all have pro-American governments that are weak. They don’t have firm control over the area within their borders, and they lack the sort of legitimacy that would make terrorism untempting. Now that General Petraeus is the head of the Central Command and has authority over American troops in the region, our forces could practice all that he has preached, achieve positive results, and still be unable to leave, because there is no national authority that can be effective against terrorism.
Long ago, great powers that had vital interests far away simply set up colonies. That wound up being one of the leading causes of terrorism. Then, as an alternative to colonialism, great powers supported dictatorial client states. That, too, often led to terrorism. During the Bush Administration, creating democracies (by force if necessary) in the Middle East was supposed to serve American interests, but, once again, the result was to increase terrorism. Even if all terrorism turns out to be local, effective, long-running counterterrorism has to be national. States still matter most. And finding trustworthy partner states in the region of the world where suicide bombers are killing Americans is so hard that it makes fighting terrorism look easy. ♦




Exlibris: Два писателя

Игорь Яркевич
Два писателя


Сегодня исполняется двадцать лет со дня выхода рассказа Игоря Яркевича "Два писателя". Увы (или – к счастью!), с тех пор, можно сказать, почти ничего не изменилось. Только вместо слов "американский писатель" сейчас можно написать еще и "современный актуальный писатель". Или как-то иначе. "Современный популярный писатель", например. Впрочем, пусть лучше это решают и делают читатели. "НГ-EL"

Вот американский писатель. Он любит жизнь и вообще славный, а русский писатель злой и жизни терпеть не может, потому что она с самого начала отнеслась к нему скверно.
Вот американский писатель. Он только что вы...л служанку. Это еще ничего, ему надо спасибо сказать за то, что он не вы...л жену, вторую служанку, слугу и собачку. Он может, потому что американские писатели только и делают, что е...т кого, а ничего другого они знать не хотят. Русский писатель не такой, русского писателя е...т постоянно другие, так как он беспомощный и никакой защиты от судеб у него нет. Поэтому как только взглянут на русского писателя, то сразу понимают, что он совсем неповоротливый, как ежик, и тут же начинают безнаказанно его е...ть; и обижать. И унижать. С американским писателем так не поступают, ведь он сам кого угодно вы...т, а с русским писателем, конечно, все можно.
Вот – американский писатель. Он добр и мягок, беспечен, прекрасно выглядит, хорошо воспитан, у него есть деньги. Русский же писатель всегда похож на ежика, которого только что вы...ли, причем все сразу, притом неизвестно за что. Он бессердечен, жесток, озабочен, опять не выспался, воспитан-то он воспитан, но лучше бы его не воспитывали. Денег у русского писателя нет, зачем они ему, он выше их, но если они у него даже и есть, то лучше бы их у него и не было, потому что русский писатель с деньгами ведет себя еще грустнее, чем русский писатель без денег.
read more Если американский писатель собирается кого-нибудь угостить, то он говорит: «Деньги есть» – то есть у американского писателя есть деньги, чтобы угощать. Когда русский писатель собирается кого-нибудь угостить, то он спрашивает: «Деньги есть?» – то есть у русского писателя нет денег, чтобы угощать, и теперь вся надежда на того, кого русский писатель собирался угостить.
Американский писатель помолится в одном месте, а в другом месте выс...ся. Русский писатель где помолится, там, как правило, и выс...ся, а где выс...ся, там скорее всего и помолится.
Русскому писателю постоянно стыдно за те гадости, которые он сделал вчера – зарезался, зарезал, напился, украл, сам не помнит… Американский писатель спокоен – вчера он только кого-то вы...л, да и то по взаимному согласию.
Как-то раз американский писатель встретил несчастного ребенка. Так вот, американский писатель сразу дал несчастному ребенку гречневой каши и кока-колы, затем помыл, обогрел и одел, снова накормил и устроил за свой счет в престижный колледж.
Как-то раз и русский писатель встретил несчастного ребенка. Ребенок громко плакал. Русский писатель долго объяснял ему, почему все благополучие мира не стоит одной слезы ребенка, затем отнял единственную игрушку и выгнал ночью на мороз в чужой незнакомый город.
Однажды один симпатичный юноша познакомился с русским писателем, так русский писатель сразу напугал юношу, затем избил и отобрал все деньги, якобы для того, чтобы в ночном магазине водку купить, и пропал навсегда. А затем юноша познакомился с американским писателем, и тот пригласил юношу к себе в отличный номер, где они всего лишь приятно провели время.
Одна милая девушка случайно познакомилась с американским писателем, и он подарил ей цветы, варежки и часы. А потом она познакомилась с русским писателем, который ей ничего не дарил, но зато тащил в постель и каялся в том, что совершенно напрасно избил одного милого юношу.
В один прекрасный день пожилая семейная пара пригласила американского писателя на прием, и гости были очарованы и покорены изысканными манерами и глубокими знаниями американского писателя. На прощание американский писатель подарил всем по книжке американской литературы.
Та же самая пара пригласила на прием и русского писателя. И что же? Русский писатель вел себя отвратительно, за столом чавкал, потом сморкался в скатерть, плевал на пол, ковырял в зубах, весь портвейн из рюмок слил к себе в стакан и сам его выпил, а на прощание требовал от гостей купить по книжке русской литературы.
Американский писатель – циник и позер, «дерьмо» не сходит с его губ, но в глубине души он убежден, что красота спасет мир.
Русский писатель на каждом углу твердит, что красота спасет мир или уже спасла… Но когда русский писатель приходит домой и включает электрическую плиту или зажигает газовую конфорку, то для него мир – большая сплошная х...ня.
Американский писатель постоянно в тонком аромате хороших вещей: одеколона, коньяка, греха… От русского писателя пахнет котельной, мусоропроводом и несостоявшейся поллюцией.
Русский писатель – трус, пи...бол и доносчик. Американский писатель отважен и смел, его ничем не испугать, он культурист и правдолюб.
Русский писатель коллекционирует справки по месту работы, американский писатель – таитянок и ювелирные украшения в форме черепаховых панцирей.
Американский писатель каждый день моет раковину и тщательно следит за порядком в доме. Русский писатель забыл, когда он в последний раз убирал постель.
Американский писатель очень любит свою семью. Русский писатель уже убил двух своих жен и, по слухам, собирается сделать то же самое с третьей. На детях русского писателя живого места нет, потому что он бьет их каждый день чернильницей и грозит мясорубкой.
У американского писателя две любовницы – манекенщица и журналистка. У русского писателя тоже есть любовница – собака Мурзик.
Американский писатель – умница, русский писатель – кретин в пятом поколении.
Американский писатель скачет на «мерседесе» в рай, русский писатель трясется на перекладных прямо в ад и еще кряхтит, что путь слишком долгий.
Американский писатель необычайно красив лицом; русский писатель весь в прыщах и занозах.
Американский писатель богобоязненный и глубоко верующий человек. Русский писатель из Библии помнит только одну фразу – «Весна красна».
Американский писатель чист перед людьми как на духу. За русским писателем еще с колыбели тянется дружная вереница кровавых следов и поступков.
Американский писатель вводит член во влагалище легко и быстро; русский писатель – долго и с трудом, нанося болезненные повреждения всему окружающему.
Американский писатель любит животных и флору; русский писатель обожает ж...у, но не как место действия, а как состояние души.
Американский писатель как-то раз гулял со своими друзьями по цветущему весеннему саду, где все общество наслаждалось плавно текущей беседой. Потом все отправились в ресторан и там тоже наслаждались.
Русский писатель как-то раз стоял со своими друзьями в подворотне, где уверял, что ему якобы вчера заплатили гонорар в размере тысячи рублей ни за что, просто так – из-за уважения к его таланту. После чего все отправились нюхать клей и закусывать сухарями.
У американского писателя отличная память. Русский писатель давно все забыл.
Американский писатель – достояние и сокровище.
Русский писатель – чудовище и уе...ще.
Американский писатель умрет у себя дома в окружении близких и родных с видом хорошо потрудившегося человека. Вся Америка будет два дня рыдать и чахнуть у его гроба. Траурные ленточки на приспущенных флагах, скорбные лица сограждан, усиленные наряды полиции – такие вот будут декорации его ухода.
Русский писатель подохнет под забором в грязной канаве в обнимку с крысой. В этот момент вся Россия только вздохнет облегченно.
Теперь о гон...нах. Русский писатель – гон...н; американский писатель нет.
Дьявол, которому русский писатель подарил все части тела, обещал русскому писателю отдельную квартиру, но пока никак. А вот американский писатель живет в собственном трехэтажном доме с подземным гаражом, бассейном и негром Мулатом.
Русский писатель глазки протирает, американский писатель клювик прочищает.
Американский писатель – ангел, чудом спустившийся на землю.
Русский писатель – мучитель рода человеческого.
Но… И еще раз но… Пускай русский писатель уродлив и его всякий обидеть может! Не этим он берет и привлекает, а совсем другим – своими персонажами, которые любят добро, а зло ненавидят, потому что персонажи русского писателя не могут любить зло. Стоит такому персонажу увидеть зло, как он моментально подбегает к злу со всех сторон, хватает его за уши и титьки и начинает доить. Злу некуда деваться, и оно исчезает. Русские писатели уже практически очистили мир от зла, поэтому американские писатели вынуждены разыскивать его в самых тайных закоулках чуть ли не с лупой.
Тут самое интересное. Персонажи американских писателей абсолютно несексуальны, живых гениталий никогда в лицо не видели, а если и видели, то ничего не поняли, а если и поняли, то только в плане осуществления демократических свобод. Для американских лирических героев половой орган не представляет ни малейшего интереса, поскольку совершенно бесполезен в борьбе за права человека.
То ли дело персонажи русских писателей! Для них «х...» – это х..., а «п...а» – это п...а, потому что русские писатели принимают мир во всей его сложности и – Боже мой – они рады этому миру. У русских писателей во всех романах, повестях, рассказах и газетных заметках есть голое тело. А мат? О, русский писатель не может без мата, он с ним ложится и встает. Русский писатель никогда не боялся вставить в ткань своего повествования слово «ж...а», а вот американский писатель десять раз содрогнется, потом напишет, наконец, – «ж...а», в последний момент испугается и напишет – «сюртук».
Если американский писатель пишет слово «б...ь», то в итоге он все зачеркивает и пишет «картошка», а если русский писатель пишет слово «б...ь», то он ничего не зачеркивает и не скрывает.
В этом и парадокс – раскованный в жизни американский писатель в своих книгах напоминает сейф, застегнутый на все пуговицы и покрытый сверху черным одеялом.
То ли дело русский писатель! Пусть он жалок и смешон наяву, но зато какая прелесть его книги!
Как пишет американский писатель? Плохо. Вот так, например, американский писатель рассказывает о поездке в горы – я ехал в горах, и скользкая извилистая дорога звала меня вперед и вверх, к вершинам демократии.
А русский писатель никогда себе такого не позволит, русский писатель вот так напишет – горная дорога, отдохни немного, Лермонтов, Гете, Германия, Италия, Пизанская башня, Господи, дай мне силы, и она никогда не упадет! Потому что русский писатель про поток сознания читал и про метафору, и Джойса он читал, и постмодернизм он видел в гробу под Кремлевской стеной, потому что русскому писателю все это уже неинтересно.
А вот американский писатель ничего этого не знает, он только «Хижину дяди Тома» читал, и то не до конца, ему не до того, конечно, он все это время кого-то е...л, а вот русский писатель обязан много читать, потому что с ним никто ничего не хочет, даже дети, животные и трактористы обходят его стороной.
И про постмодернизм американский писатель ничего не знает. Ну, может быть, про модернизм ему еще и рассказывали что-нибудь русские писатели по «Голосу Америки», а вот про пост американскому писателю откуда знать?
Вообще, если свести американского писателя и русского писателя, то скорее всего американский писатель отдерет русского писателя, но русский писатель будет точно сильнее литературно. Заключайте пари, господа, и делайте ваши ставки!
У американского писателя хороший запах, от русского писателя воняет козлом, потому что никогда не моется, а зачем ему это? Он и так хорош, ведь романы русский писатель пишет значительно лучше американского.
Вот два романа.
Первый – американский. Называется – «Как один мулат сразу десять негров обманул». Роман, разумеется, о национальных проблемах, ведь все американские писатели (а все они или негры, или мулаты) пишут только об этом.
В большом негритянском поселке мулат только один. В конце романа негры хватают мулата и собираются сделать ему обрезание, чтобы он ничем не отличался от негров. И вот, когда нож уже занесен и вода доведена до кипения, выясняется, что мулату уже сделали обрезание давным-давно. Негры сгорают со стыда и проваливаются сквозь землю; мулат торжествует.
Откроем обычный русский роман. Женщина (почти девушка) никак не может найти себе достойного партнера. В конце романа ее спасает русский писатель, и они вдвоем уезжают в тайгу на острова, где русский писатель сочиняет свой новый роман. Все это происходит в изящном обрамлении политической и экономической суеты.
Такой вот русский писатель! Когда он идет, то земля дрожит под ногами и все живое в панике разбегается или мечтает только о том, как бы его поскорее вы...ть. Но зато он хорошо пишет. Когда же идет американский писатель, все только рады, все хотят ему дать, поэтому он и пишет, откровенно говоря, х...во, потому что человек пишет хорошо только тогда, когда ему не дают, а кто и когда не давал американскому писателю? Разве что только в прошлом его воплощении, когда он был русским писателем.
Ничего, пройдут года, русские писатели соберутся и отделают американских писателей не только литературно, но и физически, и тогда будет небо в алмазах и наступит новая жизнь, совсем не похожая на прежнюю.


April 19, 2010

NYT: Best Coffee






From Dung to Coffee Brew With No Aftertaste
By NORIMITSU ONISHI

SAGADA, the Philippines — Goad Sibayan went prospecting recently in the remote Philippine highlands here known as the Cordillera. He clambered up and then down a narrow, rocky footpath that snaked around some hills, paying no heed to coffins that, in keeping with a local funeral tradition, hung very conspicuously from the surrounding sheer cliffs.
Reaching a valley where coffee trees were growing abundantly, he scanned the undergrowth where he knew the animals would relax after picking the most delicious coffee cherries with their claws and feasting on them with their fangs. His eyes settled on a light, brownish clump atop a rock. He held it in his right palm and, gently slipping it into a little black pouch, whispered:
“Gold!”
Not quite. But Mr. Sibayan’s prize was the equivalent in the world of rarefied coffees: dung containing the world’s most expensive coffee beans.
Costing hundreds of dollars a pound, these beans are found in the droppings of the civet, a nocturnal, furry, long-tailed catlike animal that prowls Southeast Asia’s coffee-growing lands for the tastiest, ripest coffee cherries. The civet eventually excretes the hard, indigestible innards of the fruit — essentially, incipient coffee beans — though only after they have been fermented in the animal’s stomach acids and enzymes to produce a brew described as smooth, chocolaty and devoid of any bitter aftertaste.
read more As connoisseurs in the United States, Europe and East Asia have discovered civet coffee in recent years, growing demand is fueling a gold rush in the Philippines and Indonesia, the countries with the largest civet populations. Harvesters are scouring forest floors in the Philippines, where civet coffee has emerged as a new business. In Indonesia, where the coffee has a long history, enterprising individuals are capturing civets and setting up minifarms, often in their backyards.
Neither the Indonesian government nor the Association of Indonesia Coffee Exporters breaks down civet coffee’s tiny share of Indonesia’s overall coffee production. The Association of Indonesian Coffee Luwak Farmers, created in 2009 to handle the rising demand for civet coffee, or kopi luwak, as it is called in Indonesian, said most civet producers were small-time businessmen who exported directly overseas.
Given the money at stake, fake and low-grade civet coffee beans are also flooding the market.
“Because of its increasing popularity, there is more civet coffee than ever, but I don’t trust the quality,” said Rudy Widjaja, 68, whose 131-year-old family-owned coffee store in Jakarta, Warung Tinggi, is considered Indonesia’s oldest.
Competition is touching off fierce debates. What is real civet coffee, anyway? Does the civet’s choice of beans make the coffee? Or is it the beans’ journey through the animal’s digestive tract? Can the aroma, fragrance and taste of beans from the droppings of a caged civet ever be as tasty as those from its wild cousin?
Vie Reyes, whose Manila-based company, Bote Central, entered the civet coffee business five years ago, said she bought only from harvesters of the wild kind. Ms. Reyes exports to distributors overseas — Japan and South Korea are her biggest markets — and also directly sells 2.2-pound bags for $500, or about $227 a pound.
Maintaining quality was a constant challenge because distinguishing the real stuff from the fake was never easy. One time, harvesters sold her regular beans glued to unidentified dung.
“I washed it,” she said. “But the glue wouldn’t come off.”
One of her suppliers, Mr. Sibayan, 37, buys beans from collectors throughout the Cordillera, a mountainous region in the north that can be reached only after a punishing 12-hour drive from Manila. On a recent day, he dropped by to see the Pat-ogs, who own a 1.7-acre lot just outside this town.
Until Mr. Sibayan began buying their civet coffee four years ago, the Pat-ogs had never given much thought to the droppings left behind by the civets that came to munch on the family’s coffee trees at night. They discarded the beans or mixed them with regular beans they sold to agents. Now, they were getting about $9 a pound for the civet beans, or about five times the price of regular coffee beans, which, furthermore, required labor-intensive harvesting.
Mr. Sibayan inspected their batch and said he would pay just under top-grade price. He had found some impurities — inferior beans that the civet had spat out; beans chewed on, not by civets, but bats — that were indiscernible to all but Mr. Sibayan’s expert eye or, rather, tongue.
Licking one bean, he explained that real civet coffee beans should have lost their natural sweetness and acquired a rough texture. “This is pure, good quality,” he said, adding, “Once, some farmers tried to fool me by slightly roasting regular beans to remove the sweetness.”
Alberto Pat-og, 60, a retired school principal, said he did not understand why foreigners were willing to pay so much for a cup of the stuff.
“We are a bit surprised,” he said. “A bit perplexed.”
His son, Lambert, 20, added, with a big grin, “We are ignorant.”
The Pat-ogs wished they could expand their business but said there were simply not enough civets around. Compounding the problem, farmers around these parts tended to trap civets, which also have a taste for chicken. Local residents still prized civets less for their coffee-picking ability than their meat, which was typically dried before being prepared adobo-style.
“It’s very difficult to convince my neighbors not to kill civets because they’re considered such a delicacy here,” the father said.
In Indonesia, too, a shrinking civet population is creating obstacles for those hoping to ride the civet coffee boom. Civet coffee has long been centered in the western island of Sumatra, where a growing human population, economic development and deforestation have eroded their habitats.
Mr. Widjaja, the Jakarta store owner, said that the Dutch, who ruled Indonesia for more than three centuries, and Japanese soldiers, who occupied the country during World War II, were the most die-hard drinkers of civet coffee. But the coffee all but disappeared after the late 1950s, he said, and resurfaced on the market only after its reputation began spreading overseas. After he began fielding inquiries in 2007 from interested buyers in the United States, Japan and Taiwan, he secured a regular supply of wild civet coffee and began selling it only last year — at $150 a pound.
In Liwa, a small town in southwestern Sumatra, more than 30 families were involved in civet coffee.
Mega Kurniawan, 28, entered the business two years ago by setting up shop in the backyard of his family home. He had already expanded to three other locations and was now in civets full time. With a total of 102 civets, he gathered about 550 pounds of beans a month.
During the day, Mr. Kurniawan’s civets slept inside their small wooden cages before growing active at dusk. At night, the animals ate from fresh plates of coffee cherries, replenished every two hours, or paced back and forth at a brisk, caffeinated clip.
Though caged, the civets ate only about half of the beans placed before them, choosing only the best specimens, Mr. Kurniawan insisted. He dismissed connoisseurs’ criticism that stress felt by the caged animals invariably affected the taste of the beans.
“It’s the same,” he said, acknowledging, however, that some buyers preferred wild civet coffee. “Maybe it’s the prestige.”
A few blocks away, Ujang Suryana, 62, had his own firm opinions about what constituted real civet coffee. A reflexologist, Mr. Suryana began moonlighting in civets three months ago after catching a local television report on the brew’s popularity abroad. He pooled $1,000 to buy three civets and cages.
He had already found a way to increase the civets’ output exponentially by mechanically stripping the coffee beans from the cherries and mixing them in a banana mash. The civets gobbled it all up. This way, no beans were wasted. What is more, he had raised the dung production from 2.2 pounds a week to a whopping 6.6 pounds a day.
But wasn’t Mr. Suryana denying the civet its renowned ability to sniff out the best beans?
He scrunched up his face as if to wave away the suggestion. “The most important thing is that the beans go through its stomach and are fermented,” he said. “It all tastes the same, anyway.”