Wednesday, February 28, 2007


Layered luxury in a glass
Direct from Paris, it's the hottest trend you've never heard of. Introducing ... verrines.
By Betty Hallock
Times Staff Writer

February 28, 2007

ENTIRE cookbooks are written about them, glossy magazine spreads are devoted to them, home cooks blog about their addiction to making them, clamoring, "I have caught the bug!" or "I could not stop thinking about them…."

Chic pâtisseries in Paris — including Pierre Hermé, Jean-Paul Hévin and Fauchon — showcase them, and prominent French chefs such as Guy Savoy, Yves Camdeborde and Hélène Darroze put them on their menus. A pretty, tiny one might come with your aperitif, or it might be the last dazzling thing you see on the table at the end of a meal.

But what are they? They're called verrines. You haven't heard of them? Well, most American chefs haven't, either. A verrine is an appetizer or dessert that consists of a number of components layered artfully in a small glass. (The word verrine refers to the glass itself; literally it means "protective glass.")

Intriguingly composed, they're a study in textures, flavors, colors and temperatures. A beautiful glass might be filled with a layer of mushroom flan, sautéed wild mushrooms, a julienne of prosciutto, parsley gelée, wild mushroom emulsion and topped with a potato and prosciutto galette. Another will have clementine and mint syrup, fresh clementines and a gingerbread "crumble."

American chefs are just starting to catch on to the verrine. But in France it's a culinary trend that's captured just about everyone's imagination — including home cooks. Several cookbooks about verrines have been published in France, with titles such as "Manger Dans un Verre" (Eating in a Glass), "Un Plat Dans un Verre" (A Dish in a Glass) and, just out this month, "Divines Verrines."

If you subscribe to the idea that starting with an impressive appetizer and ending with a splashy dessert guarantees that dinner will be fabulous, then verrines are ideal for entertaining: They have sparkle, they have flair, and you even assemble them ahead of time.

Meanwhile, in Paris, they're hotter than ever among chefs. "At the moment, we see things served in verrines everywhere," says Kirk Whitlle, pastry chef at Michelin two-star restaurant Hélène Darroze.

Nearly all the desserts in the restaurant's Le Salon are verrines. One has layers of bay leaf-flavored panna cotta, Mara des Bois strawberries, lemon gelée, lemon crumble and strawberry sorbet. Another has salted caramel ice cream, chocolate-cumin tuile and Madong chocolate cream.

Haute bistro fare

THEY'RE big too at the 6-month-old restaurant Sensing in the 6th arrondissement. The place is gleamingly hip, with its long alabaster bar and clouds projected on the walls. Michelin-rated three-star chef Guy Martin took over the space, transformed it into a modern bistro and installed executive chef Remi Van Peteghem, formerly of Lasserre and known for his modern French dishes.

Van Peteghem says he started creating original verrines at Sensing four months ago, serving some in delicate glasses with inclined bases "like the Leaning Tower of Pisa."

On his "Le Snacking" menu is a savory verrine of what he calls a bavarois of foie gras with a Port gelée and an emulsion of Jerusalem artichoke, for which he uses a soda siphon to achieve the right texture. Another starts with a layer of scrambled egg yolks, then a purée of Jerusalem artichoke, topped with a crispy piece of walnut bread. "Like an oeuf à la coque story," he says, referring to a soft-boiled egg served with mouillettes, which are pieces of toast meant for dipping. On his dessert menu is the clementine and mint verrine.

"There is no limit to the number of layers, but I like to work with just a few to respect the identity of each flavor," Van Peteghem says. "The customer should always be able to recognize and know the difference between the layers. Odd numbers look better as a composition."

"I started using verrines 20 years ago," says Paris-based three-star chef Guy Savoy, who also has a restaurant in Las Vegas in Caesars Palace. "My childhood prompted me. I saw in those verrines all the desserts of my childhood — chocolate mousse, rice pudding, crème caramel," dishes traditionally served in glass coupes.

Step into a Pierre Hermé shop in Paris, and you'll see glass pastry cases filled with rows of elegant verrines.

"Verrine — it sounds like terrine. I refer to them as émotions. Very French," says master pâtissier Hermé. "I am interested in the architecture of desserts, in tastes and textures and senses." Hermé says he developed many of his émotions from other desserts, translating them from his elaborate cakes.

"This is new in pastry shops," he says of the popularity of verrines, though he introduced his émotions in 2001. But it was in the mid-'90s that chef Philippe Conticini says he started creating desserts in glasses. In 1999, he became consulting chef to Petrossian in Paris and New York, where he introduced Manhattanites to his tentations, or temptations, and émotions salées, savory émotions — desserts served in coupes or glasses and filled with intriguing components both savory and sweet.

Among the many émotions Hermé has in rotation are émotion satine, a passion fruit compote layered with orange segments, crème au cream-cheese and pâte sablée; émotion vanille, with vanilla gelée, vanilla baba and a vanilla-flavored mascarpone cream; and émotion Ispahan, with a gelée of litchis and raspberries, fresh raspberries, a raspberry compote and a rose ganache.

A recipe for émotion exotic comes from his latest book, "ph10 Pâtisserie Pierre Hermé," in which an entire chapter focuses on émotions and sensations. (Sensations, which are also verrines, have more gelée and are offered in the summer, Hermé explains, because they're refreshing.)

Hermé's émotion exotic is a look at the architecture of a verrine. "There are a lot of steps, but it's not so difficult" to make, Hermé says. The first layer is a pistachio crème brûlée, then comes a crisp, almond dacquoise cookie, next a "salade" of pineapple accented with cilantro and Sarawak pepper, then another cookie and a layer of coconut tapioca; at the very top is a disk of white chocolate. The pineapple looks as if it's magically suspended between the two thin cookies.

Dig into it with a spoon, and you come up with an amazing array of flavors and textures, the creaminess of coconut pudding studded with chewy tapioca, the crunch of almond cookie, refreshing pineapple and the deep, almost sweet note from the Sarawak pepper, and finally the velvety pistachio crème brûlée.

It's worth going through all those steps to make it. (We've adapted and simplified it, substituting a simple tuile for the dacquoise cookie and eliminating the white chocolate disk.)

Chefs might tend toward the elaborate, but a verrine offers the perfect opportunity to experiment in one's own kitchen. "Maybe one with carrot purée and an emulsion of arugula with a little cumin and curry," suggests Sensing's Van Peteghem. "Or fresh berries with white chocolate mousse and a berry coulis."

Salad in a glass

THE French cookbooks include versions such as one with sablé cookies and lemon curd or another with eggplant "caviar" with ricotta and coppa. Even a favorite dish can inspire one: A simple Italian salad becomes a verrine with layers of slow-roasted tomatoes, burrata and pesto, with a garnish of crisp prosciutto. Or butterscotch pudding, a wafer cookie, chocolate sauce and whipped cream.

Meanwhile, French chefs have brought verrines with them to Las Vegas.

At L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon, diners sitting at the counter get a peek into the kitchen, and general manager Emmanuel Cornett says they're often intrigued by a verrine called l'oeuf en cocotte, an egg steamed in the glass on top of a parsley purée. Once the egg is cooked, it's topped with sautéed mushrooms and a mushroom foam.

"People are often pointing to it and asking, 'Oh, what is it?' " says Cornett. "I hadn't heard the word verrine. I called it layered things in glasses."

One of the signature dishes at Restaurant Guy Savoy in Las Vegas is a verrine, one that Savoy calls "colors of caviar." The first layer is caviar suspended in a vinaigrette, topped with crème caviar, a purée of haricots verts, and finally a sabayon of golden osetra caviar from Iran.

"We play with the different tastes," says executive chef Damien Dulas, "like the acidity of the vinaigrette with the softness of the cream and sweetness of the French bean. We tell people not to eat just one layer by one layer but all layers at the same time. They're all complementary."

He says special attention is paid to the types of glasses that are used, such as double-walled insulated Bodum glasses or handblown glass from Poland. He serves an amuse with cauliflower purée, layers of pink watermelon radish and jicama diced into a brunoise, toasted bread crumbs tossed with herbs, hazelnuts and diced cauliflower, with an emulsion of mizuna on top.

To date, only a few verrines have been spotted in Los Angeles. Chef Christophe Emé at Ortolan has done a few; one has layers of puréed potato, ratatouille of escargot, chorizo and a lettuce emulsion.

There's another at Opus. "I didn't know what it was called," says chef Josef Centeno. "I was inspired by a dessert panna cotta," he says of a tiny verrine he serves as an amuse — celery panna cotta, celery root purée and puréed Okinawan purple potato with tonburi, the dried seed of broom cypress (also known as land caviar).

"Each layer is a different temperature," he says. "The panna cotta is chilled, the celery root purée is at room temperature, and the potato is warm, because the flavor of each layer is best at each of those temperatures."

"The temperature is very important in some verrines," says Sensing's Van Peteghem, "because the temperature is directly related to the flavor and the texture. It's an unconventional way to serve food, but it's important to use tastes that balance each other," that hold up to each other. "Each [verrine] has its own story.

"They are an elegant miniature," he says. "This is the fashionable side of cuisine."


Cauliflower amuse

Total time: About 2 hours, including prep time

Servings: 6 appetizer portions

Note: From Damien Dulas,

executive chef of Restaurant Guy Savoy in Las Vegas. This recipe requires six glasses, about 4 1/2 inches high and 2 1/2 inches in diameter.

1 head cauliflower, cut into

1-inch pieces

5 cups heavy cream, or

quantity sufficient to cover


Freshly ground white pepper

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon finely diced ( 1/8 -inch) watermelon radish

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon finely diced ( 1/8 -inch) jicama

1 tablespoon plus 2 1/2

teaspoons best-quality

olive oil, divided

1/2 teaspoon lime juice

1/2 teaspoon lime zest

1/2 cup chopped brioche (about 1/4 -inch pieces)

1 1/2 teaspoons clarified butter

2 tablespoons chopped hazelnuts

1/2 cup finely chopped cauliflower

1/2 teaspoon minced parsley

1/2 teaspoon minced chives

1/2 teaspoon minced chervil

3 1/2 ounces mizuna (about 4 1/2 cups loosely packed)

1/2 cup vegetable stock

1. Place the 1-inch cauliflower pieces in a 4-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan, cover with the cream and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a low simmer, season with one-fourth teaspoon salt and cover the pot. Cook until soft, about 15 minutes, paying attention not to scorch the bottom. Strain the excess liquid and purée the cooked cauliflower in a food processor. Pass through a fine-mesh strainer and adjust seasoning with three-fourths teaspoon salt and one-fourth teaspoon white pepper, or to taste. Set aside.

2. In two small bowls, separately toss the watermelon radish and jicama each with one-half teaspoon olive oil, one-fourth teaspoon lime juice, one-fourth teaspoon lime zest and a pinch of salt. Set aside.

3. Heat the oven to 325 degrees. For the crumble, toss the brioche with the clarified butter in a bowl. Spread the brioche on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper or Silpat and toast until lightly golden, 5 to 7 minutes. Place the brioche onpaper towels and allow to cool. Place the chopped hazelnuts on a lined sheet pan and toast until lightly golden, about 10 minutes. Cool. Combine the toasted brioche, finely chopped cauliflower, minced parsley, chives and chervil, and the hazelnuts. Season with 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil, one-eighth teaspoon salt and a tiny pinch of white pepper, or to taste.

4. For the mizuna emulsion, first blanch the mizuna in a saucepan of salted boiling water, just long enough to bring out the color. Strain and shock in an ice bath. Strain again, and purée the mizuna in a blender or food processor. Pass the purée through a fine-mesh strainer. Add the vegetable stock to the purée. Season with a pinch of salt. Just before serving, emulsify the purée in a blender or using an immersion blender with 1 tablespoon olive oil to incorporate until light and frothy.

5. Place about one-fourth cup cauliflower purée in each of six glasses. Top with 1 1/2 tablespoons each of the dressed watermelon radish and jicama. Cover with 1 1/2 tablespoons of the crumble. Finish with a few tablespoons of froth from the mizuna emulsion. (There will be extra mizuna emulsion.) Serve immediately.

Each serving: 196 calories; 4 grams protein; 12 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams fiber; 16 grams fat; 7 grams saturated fat; 45 mg. cholesterol; 116 mg. sodium.


Red, white and green verrine

Total time: About 35 minutes, plus up to 4 1/2 hours roasting time

Servings: 6

Note: From test kitchen director Donna Deane. Burrata is available at Bristol Farms and Whole Foods stores and Bay Cities Italian Deli in Santa Monica.

6 Roma tomatoes

Olive oil

3/4 teaspoon salt, divided

Black pepper

1 teaspoon aged balsamic


3 garlic cloves, minced

3 tablespoons pine nuts

1 cup chopped fresh basil

3 tablespoons grated


2 teaspoons lemon juice

3 paper-thin slices prosciutto

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons

burrata cheese

Cracked black pepper

Fleur de sel

1. Heat the oven to 225 degrees. Cut the Roma tomatoes in half lengthwise and place them cut-side up on a rack set on a baking sheet. Drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil over them. Sprinkle with one-half teaspoon salt and a few grinds of black pepper.

2. Roast the tomatoes for 4 to 4 1/2 hours, until they are very tender and begin to collapse and show some browning. Remove from the oven and let cool, then coarsely chop. Add additional salt and pepper to taste if necessary. Stir in the balsamic vinegar.

3. Using a mortar and pestle, work the garlic and one-fourth teaspoon salt into a fine paste. Grind in the pine nuts and basil until a smooth paste begins to form. Slowly drizzle in one-fourth cup of olive oil, then work in the Parmigiano cheese, mixing to combine. Just before serving, stir in the lemon juice and adjust seasoning if necessary.

4. Add olive oil to a large skillet until the oil fills the pan to about one-fourth inch deep. Heat the oil over medium-high heat and when the oil is hot but not smoking, add the prosciutto slices; they should sizzle lightly. Cook until nearly crisp, 4 to 4 1/2 minutes. Drain on a paper towel and let cool before breaking into 6 shard-like pieces for garnishing the verrines.

5. For assembly, spoon about one-third cup roasted tomatoes into each of six glasses, about 3 1/2 inches high by 3 inches in diameter.

6. Spoon a generous 2 tablespoons of burrata cheese over tomatoes to make an even layer in each of the glasses. Top with about 1 tablespoon pesto in each glass, spreading it to the sides of the glass. Spoon 1 tablespoon burrata into the center of each glass, leaving an edge of the green pesto showing. Drizzle a little olive oil over the burrata and sprinkle cracked pepper and fleur de sel. Top each glass with a shard of prosciutto.

Each serving: 330 calories; 13 grams protein; 5 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 29 grams fat; 9 grams saturated fat; 48 mg. cholesterol; 584 mg. sodium.


Emotion exotic

Total time: 1 hour, 45 minutes, plus 2 hours soaking time for the tapioca pearls

Servings: 6

Note: Adapted from "ph10 Pâtisserie Pierre Hermé." Sarawak pepper is available at Le Sanctuaire in Santa Monica and online at . You can substitute other high-quality black pepper. Coconut purée (such as Boiron brand) and pistachio paste are available at Surfas in Culver City and Nicole's in South Pasadena, as well as at . This recipe requires glasses about 3 inches high and 2 1/2 inches in diameter. Reserve extra almond tuiles for another use.

Almond tuiles

3/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted

1/3 cup sugar, divided

1/4 cup ( 1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

2 1/2 tablespoons heavy cream

1 egg white

2 1/2 tablespoons flour, sifted

1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Meanwhile, in a small frying pan over medium heat, toast the sliced almonds until golden brown and fragrant, about 3 minutes.

2. In a food processor, grind the almonds and half the sugar to a coarse consistency, pulsing for about 25 seconds.

3. In an electric mixer, cream the butter with the remaining sugar until well incorporated, about 1 minute. Add the salt, cream and ground almond mixture. Mix well, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the egg white and mix well. Add the flour and mix until incorporated.

4. Make a template by tracing a 3-inch round cookie cutter onto a thin piece of cardboard. Cut out the circle and trim the rest of the cardboard to within 1 inch around the hole.

5. Place the template on a Silpat-lined baking sheet. Spoon 1 rounded teaspoon of batter into the template. Using an offset spatula, smooth the batter as evenly as possible in the template. Space the tuiles several inches apart.

6. Bake for about 6 to 8 minutes, rotating once, until the tuiles are dark golden brown around the edges and golden in the center. They will not brown evenly. Watch carefully during the final minute because they burn easily. Let cool completely on the Silpat, then gently lift the cookies off the baking sheet. Makes 20 tuiles.

Pistachio crème brûlée

4 egg yolks

1/4 cup sugar, divided

1/2 cup whole milk

1/2 cup heavy cream

2 1/2 teaspoons pistachio paste

1. Heat the oven to 325 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks with half of the sugar until incorporated and set aside. In a small saucepan over medium heat, boil the milk and cream with the rest of the sugar and the pistachio paste until the sugar and the pistachio paste have dissolved, about 2 minutes. Whisking, add in the egg yolk mixture until incorporated.

2. Strain the pistachio crème mixture through a chinois or fine-mesh sieve. Fill each of 6 glasses with one-fourth cup of pistachio crème. Place the glasses in a 9-inch-square pan and fill with simmering water to the top of the custard in the glasses. Bake 20 to 25 minutes. The texture, when the crème comes out of the oven, should be just set (not firm). Let cool in the water bath to room temperature, then refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes.

Coconut and tapioca 'jus'

1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons small-pearl tapioca

1 sheet gelatin

2/3 cup whole milk

2 teaspoons sugar

1 tablespoon grated orange zest

1/4 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup coconut purée

1. In a small bowl, soak the tapioca in cold water for 2 hours. Drain the tapioca into a fine-mash strainer and rinse with cold water. Drain well.

2. Soak the gelatin sheet for 20 minutes in cold water. In a saucepan, heat the milk with the sugar and the orange zest. When it comes to a boil, add the tapioca and cook 35 minutes over low heat.

3. In a separate saucepan, bring the cream to a boil. Drain the softened gelatin and incorporate it into the milk-sugar mixture, then mix in the coconut purée and the boiled cream. Remove from the heat and chill in an ice bath until thickened to a pudding consistency, about 10 minutes.

Pineapple and assembly

1 cup cubed fresh pineapple (cut into 1/4 -inch dice and drained of juice)

1/4 teaspoon grated lime zest

5 cilantro leaves, finely chopped

Pinch of black freshly ground Sarawak pepper

1 tablespoon mango (or apricot or pineapple) jam, melted

1. In a small bowl, mix the cubed pineapple with the zest, the finely chopped cilantro and the black pepper; mix them gently. Add the melted mango jam and toss gently. You should do this just before assembly so the fruit is just dressed, not macerated.

2. Carefully trim an almond tuile with kitchen scissors to fit the glass, then place the tuile on top of the pistachio crème. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the pineapple mixture on top of the tuile. Then place another tuile atop the pineapple mixture. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the coconut tapioca onto the tuile. Garnish with an edible flower, such as a violet or pansy. Serve immediately.

Each serving: 465 calories; 8 grams protein; 46 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams fiber; 29 grams fat; 16 grams saturated fat; 200 mg. cholesterol; 116 mg. sodium.

Transcript: President Clinton explains Iraq strike

December 16, 1998
Good evening.
Earlier today, I ordered America's armed forces to strike military and security targets in Iraq. They are joined by British forces. Their mission is to attack Iraq's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs and its military capacity to threaten its neighbors.
Their purpose is to protect the national interest of the United States, and indeed the interests of people throughout the Middle East and around the world.
Saddam Hussein must not be allowed to threaten his neighbors or the world with nuclear arms, poison gas or biological weapons.
I want to explain why I have decided, with the unanimous recommendation of my national security team, to use force in Iraq; why we have acted now; and what we aim to accomplish.
Six weeks ago, Saddam Hussein announced that he would no longer cooperate with the United Nations weapons inspectors called UNSCOM. They are highly professional experts from dozens of countries. Their job is to oversee the elimination of Iraq's capability to retain, create and use weapons of mass destruction, and to verify that Iraq does not attempt to rebuild that capability.
The inspectors undertook this mission first 7.5 years ago at the end of the Gulf War when Iraq agreed to declare and destroy its arsenal as a condition of the ceasefire.
The international community had good reason to set this requirement. Other countries possess weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles. With Saddam, there is one big difference: He has used them. Not once, but repeatedly. Unleashing chemical weapons against Iranian troops during a decade-long war. Not only against soldiers, but against civilians, firing Scud missiles at the citizens of Israel, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Iran. And not only against a foreign enemy, but even against his own people, gassing Kurdish civilians in Northern Iraq.
The international community had little doubt then, and I have no doubt today, that left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will use these terrible weapons again.
The United States has patiently worked to preserve UNSCOM as Iraq has sought to avoid its obligation to cooperate with the inspectors. On occasion, we've had to threaten military force, and Saddam has backed down.
Faced with Saddam's latest act of defiance in late October, we built intensive diplomatic pressure on Iraq backed by overwhelming military force in the region. The UN Security Council voted 15 to zero to condemn Saddam's actions and to demand that he immediately come into compliance.
Eight Arab nations -- Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Oman -- warned that Iraq alone would bear responsibility for the consequences of defying the UN.
When Saddam still failed to comply, we prepared to act militarily. It was only then at the last possible moment that Iraq backed down. It pledged to the UN that it had made, and I quote, a clear and unconditional decision to resume cooperation with the weapons inspectors.
I decided then to call off the attack with our airplanes already in the air because Saddam had given in to our demands. I concluded then that the right thing to do was to use restraint and give Saddam one last chance to prove his willingness to cooperate.
I made it very clear at that time what unconditional cooperation meant, based on existing UN resolutions and Iraq's own commitments. And along with Prime Minister Blair of Great Britain, I made it equally clear that if Saddam failed to cooperate fully, we would be prepared to act without delay, diplomacy or warning.
Now over the past three weeks, the UN weapons inspectors have carried out their plan for testing Iraq's cooperation. The testing period ended this weekend, and last night, UNSCOM's chairman, Richard Butler, reported the results to UN Secretary-General Annan.
The conclusions are stark, sobering and profoundly disturbing.
In four out of the five categories set forth, Iraq has failed to cooperate. Indeed, it actually has placed new restrictions on the inspectors. Here are some of the particulars.
Iraq repeatedly blocked UNSCOM from inspecting suspect sites. For example, it shut off access to the headquarters of its ruling party and said it will deny access to the party's other offices, even though UN resolutions make no exception for them and UNSCOM has inspected them in the past.
Iraq repeatedly restricted UNSCOM's ability to obtain necessary evidence. For example, Iraq obstructed UNSCOM's effort to photograph bombs related to its chemical weapons program.
It tried to stop an UNSCOM biological weapons team from videotaping a site and photocopying documents and prevented Iraqi personnel from answering UNSCOM's questions.
Prior to the inspection of another site, Iraq actually emptied out the building, removing not just documents but even the furniture and the equipment.
Iraq has failed to turn over virtually all the documents requested by the inspectors. Indeed, we know that Iraq ordered the destruction of weapons-related documents in anticipation of an UNSCOM inspection.
So Iraq has abused its final chance.
As the UNSCOM reports concludes, and again I quote, "Iraq's conduct ensured that no progress was able to be made in the fields of disarmament.
"In light of this experience, and in the absence of full cooperation by Iraq, it must regrettably be recorded again that the commission is not able to conduct the work mandated to it by the Security Council with respect to Iraq's prohibited weapons program."
In short, the inspectors are saying that even if they could stay in Iraq, their work would be a sham.
Saddam's deception has defeated their effectiveness. Instead of the inspectors disarming Saddam, Saddam has disarmed the inspectors.
This situation presents a clear and present danger to the stability of the Persian Gulf and the safety of people everywhere. The international community gave Saddam one last chance to resume cooperation with the weapons inspectors. Saddam has failed to seize the chance.
And so we had to act and act now.
Let me explain why.
First, without a strong inspection system, Iraq would be free to retain and begin to rebuild its chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs in months, not years.
Second, if Saddam can crippled the weapons inspection system and get away with it, he would conclude that the international community -- led by the United States -- has simply lost its will. He will surmise that he has free rein to rebuild his arsenal of destruction, and someday -- make no mistake -- he will use it again as he has in the past.
Third, in halting our air strikes in November, I gave Saddam a chance, not a license. If we turn our backs on his defiance, the credibility of U.S. power as a check against Saddam will be destroyed. We will not only have allowed Saddam to shatter the inspection system that controls his weapons of mass destruction program; we also will have fatally undercut the fear of force that stops Saddam from acting to gain domination in the region.
That is why, on the unanimous recommendation of my national security team -- including the vice president, the secretary of defense, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, the secretary of state and the national security adviser -- I have ordered a strong, sustained series of air strikes against Iraq.
They are designed to degrade Saddam's capacity to develop and deliver weapons of mass destruction, and to degrade his ability to threaten his neighbors.
At the same time, we are delivering a powerful message to Saddam. If you act recklessly, you will pay a heavy price. We acted today because, in the judgment of my military advisers, a swift response would provide the most surprise and the least opportunity for Saddam to prepare.
If we had delayed for even a matter of days from Chairman Butler's report, we would have given Saddam more time to disperse his forces and protect his weapons.
Also, the Muslim holy month of Ramadan begins this weekend. For us to initiate military action during Ramadan would be profoundly offensive to the Muslim world and, therefore, would damage our relations with Arab countries and the progress we have made in the Middle East.
That is something we wanted very much to avoid without giving Iraq's a month's head start to prepare for potential action against it.
Finally, our allies, including Prime Minister Tony Blair of Great Britain, concurred that now is the time to strike. I hope Saddam will come into cooperation with the inspection system now and comply with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions. But we have to be prepared that he will not, and we must deal with the very real danger he poses.
So we will pursue a long-term strategy to contain Iraq and its weapons of mass destruction and work toward the day when Iraq has a government worthy of its people.
First, we must be prepared to use force again if Saddam takes threatening actions, such as trying to reconstitute his weapons of mass destruction or their delivery systems, threatening his neighbors, challenging allied aircraft over Iraq or moving against his own Kurdish citizens.
The credible threat to use force, and when necessary, the actual use of force, is the surest way to contain Saddam's weapons of mass destruction program, curtail his aggression and prevent another Gulf War.
Second, so long as Iraq remains out of compliance, we will work with the international community to maintain and enforce economic sanctions. Sanctions have cost Saddam more than $120 billion -- resources that would have been used to rebuild his military. The sanctions system allows Iraq to sell oil for food, for medicine, for other humanitarian supplies for the Iraqi people.
We have no quarrel with them. But without the sanctions, we would see the oil-for-food program become oil-for-tanks, resulting in a greater threat to Iraq's neighbors and less food for its people.
The hard fact is that so long as Saddam remains in power, he threatens the well-being of his people, the peace of his region, the security of the world.
The best way to end that threat once and for all is with a new Iraqi government -- a government ready to live in peace with its neighbors, a government that respects the rights of its people. Bringing change in Baghdad will take time and effort. We will strengthen our engagement with the full range of Iraqi opposition forces and work with them effectively and prudently.
The decision to use force is never cost-free. Whenever American forces are placed in harm's way, we risk the loss of life. And while our strikes are focused on Iraq's military capabilities, there will be unintended Iraqi casualties.
Indeed, in the past, Saddam has intentionally placed Iraqi civilians in harm's way in a cynical bid to sway international opinion.
We must be prepared for these realities. At the same time, Saddam should have absolutely no doubt if he lashes out at his neighbors, we will respond forcefully.
Heavy as they are, the costs of action must be weighed against the price of inaction. If Saddam defies the world and we fail to respond, we will face a far greater threat in the future. Saddam will strike again at his neighbors. He will make war on his own people.
And mark my words, he will develop weapons of mass destruction. He will deploy them, and he will use them.
Because we're acting today, it is less likely that we will face these dangers in the future.
Let me close by addressing one other issue. Saddam Hussein and the other enemies of peace may have thought that the serious debate currently before the House of Representatives would distract Americans or weaken our resolve to face him down.
But once more, the United States has proven that although we are never eager to use force, when we must act in America's vital interests, we will do so.
In the century we're leaving, America has often made the difference between chaos and community, fear and hope. Now, in the new century, we'll have a remarkable opportunity to shape a future more peaceful than the past, but only if we stand strong against the enemies of peace.
Tonight, the United States is doing just that. May God bless and protect the brave men and women who are carrying out this vital mission and their families. And may God bless America.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Las patas de la mentira

Las patas de la mentira

Por Carlos Saúl Menem

Abraham Lincoln decía: “Se puede mentirle a todo el mundo durante un tiempo. Se puede mentirle a una parte del mundo durante todo el tiempo. Lo que no se puede hacer es mentirle a todo el mundo durante todo el tiempo”.

Esa advertencia de Lincoln tiene más vigencia que nunca en la Argentina de hoy, cuando, a vista y paciencia de la opinión pública, el Gobierno ha resuelto falsificar abiertamente lo que hasta ahora distorsionaba sistemáticamente, pero con pretendida discreción: el índice de aumento del costo de la vida.

Al hacerlo, falsifica también, automáticamente, otros dos índices muy importantes, que corresponden al porcentaje de la población argentina que se encuentra por debajo de la línea de pobreza y por debajo de la línea de indigencia, porque estos datos se derivan precisamente de la relación existente entre el costo de la vida y los ingresos personales.

Queda, entonces, acreditado algo que los argentinos sospechaban desde hace mucho tiempo: ni las cifras de inflación ni los índices de pobreza y de indigencia manejados oficialmente son ciertos.

En rigor de verdad, esa falsificación de las estadísticas es aún más flagrante, y en cierto sentido más patética, cuando se refiere a los índices de inseguridad pública. Las autoridades nacionales y de la provincia de Buenos Aires rivalizan en sus niveles de ocultamiento de los delitos que se perpetran diariamente en sus respectivas jurisdicciones.

El ministro de Interior, por ejemplo, acaba de asegurarles a medios españoles que en la Argentina ya no hay más secuestros.

Puede afirmarse que todas las estadísticas oficiales resultan hoy tan inverosímiles como las risibles encuestas electorales previas a las elecciones de constituyentes de Misiones, que otorgaban al oficialismo una amplia victoria sobre el Frente por la Dignidad, encabezado por monseñor Piña.

No hablamos, por supuesto, de una única mentira comprobable y comprobada emanada de la Casa de Gobierno. Hay muchas, porque allí parecen no querer ahorrarse papelones.

Las extrañas marchas y contramarchas que rodean la investigación judicial del caso Gerez indican que el oficialismo no sólo falsifica datos estadísticos, sino que es capaz de producir notables ficciones políticas si se trata de justificar un discurso presidencial a través de cadena nacional de radio y televisión para ganar fama de coraje en heroica lucha contra la nada.

Nos encontramos ante un vano y macabro intento de minimizar el impacto por el hecho de que Jorge Julio López lleve ya cinco meses desaparecido sin que las autoridades competentes hayan podido avanzar un centímetro en la explicación de lo sucedido. A diferencia de lo que ocurrió con el supuesto secuestro de Gerez, la desaparición de López, que sí parece desgraciadamente real, no ha merecido una alocución presidencial por radio y televisión para explicar lo que está haciendo el Gobierno en relación con lo que el propio gobernador de la provincia de Buenos Aires calificó como el primer desaparecido de la democracia.

Entretanto, la primera dama pasea su vestuario por París con el pretexto de suscribir, con bombos y platillos, una convención internacional sobre la desaparición forzada de personas.

Se decía que, en vísperas del derrocamiento de Hipólito Yrigoyen, el viejo caudillo radical era víctima de un entorno que le publicaba un periódico en el que sólo se leían buenas noticias. Ahora es el Gobierno el que quiere escribir un diario con sólo buenas noticias para consumo del pueblo argentino. Cuando la realidad lo desmiente (lo que ocurre a menudo), embiste contra el mensajero.

Por eso, envía comisarios políticos y guardias armados para fiscalizar el Indec y pretende desplazar de la investigación del caso Gerez a los fiscales que parecen acercarse a la incriminación de los autores de la farsa.

En los Estados Unidos, cuyo texto constitucional constituye el modelo en que se inspiró nuestra Carta Magna, la comprobación de mentiras análogas en boca de un presidente es causal de destitución. Si esa misma vara se empleara en la Argentina, el actual presidente se encontraría en dificultades: sería imputable de no menos de veinte mentiras muchísimo más graves que, por citar ejemplos, las comprobadas a Richard Nixon o las echadas a rodar contra Bill Clinton.

Este largo listado de embustes incluye bloopers tan inolvidables como el anuncio de 20.000 millones de dólares de inversiones chinas, la parodia de los benignos créditos para la vivienda que iban a descomprimir el mercado de alquileres o la jamás concretada, aunque reiteradamente anunciada, repatriación y rendición de cuenta de los fondos de Santa Cruz.

Como bien reza un clásico refrán del argot porteño, el pueblo no come vidrio. Los argentinos conocen los incrementos de precios porque van al supermercado. Están cada vez más preocupados por su seguridad y las de sus familias porque no transitan las calles en automóviles con vidrios polarizados ni las evitan yendo y viniendo de Olivos en helicóptero.

Saben que hay más inflación, más desempleo, más pobreza, más indigencia y marginalidad social, menos inversiones productivas, mayor deuda externa y mucha más delincuencia que lo que admite o proclama el Gobierno. Y empiezan a comprobar también, con creciente frecuencia, que existen muchas –demasiadas– farsas publicitarias incubadas en los despachos oficiales.

Quizás el Gobierno suponga que mentir hasta las elecciones presidenciales de octubre sólo representa engañar a todo el mundo durante un tiempo. Pero la verdad es que la mentira lleva ya casi cuatro años. Y ese período, hablando de este gobierno, equivale a “todo el tiempo”. Según Lincoln, esa forma de mentir es insostenible.

Carlos Saúl Menem

El autor, senador nacional, fue presidente de la República Argentina.

Fuente: La Nación

Saturday, February 24, 2007


Mexico's creative brain drain

Any Oscar triumphs by filmmakers born in the country belie the troubled state of its movie industry, which gives talent little choice but to cross the border.
By Lorenza Muñoz and Reed Johnson
Times Staff Writers

February 24, 2007

MEXICO CITY — With 16 Oscar nominations among their films, Mexican filmmakers Alfonso Cuarón, Guillermo del Toro and Alejandro González Iñárritu are the toast of Hollywood and the pride of their homeland. This Sunday, at the 79th annual Academy Awards, Mexican-born cinematographers, costume designers and actors also could walk away with coveted gold statues.

But any success would belie the troubled state of Mexico's film industry, where their careers were hatched.

"There is a family of filmmakers in Mexico that is large and talented," said Del Toro, whose "Pan's Labyrinth" received six nominations, including one for best foreign-language film. "What is alarming is that there is no industry."

An inhospitable climate at home gives Mexico's top movie talents little choice but to cross the border to chase their dreams. Private investment in film production in Mexico is minuscule and government subsidies are erratic. Hollywood movies dominate the country's theater screens, crowding out homegrown fare. And many Mexicans prefer to spend $1 on a pirated DVD rather than $5 for a movie ticket.

The unfavorable economics have slowed film releases in Mexico to a trickle. Only 25 movies came out in 2005, compared with 42 in Brazil and 89 in Britain that year, the most recent period for which figures were available in many countries. That's a substantial increase from the nine made in Mexico in 1997 after an economic crisis.

Still, the total pales against Mexico's Golden Age of cinema from the 1930s to 1950s, when the film industry produced an average of 80 movies a year, giving birth to such legends as Dolores del Rio, María Félix, Pedro Infante and Cantínflas. Last year saw a modest improvement, when 33 Mexican films were shown in theaters, according to the Instituto Mexicano de Cinematografía, or IMCINE, the principal government institute for fostering film production.

Unlike France's film industry, which is subsidized in part through TV revenue, Mexico's does not benefit from the country's multimillion-dollar television business, despite the export of telenovelas around the world.

Nor have theater owners stepped into the void, despite a building boom in the last 10 years. Theater owners have refused to contribute any percentage of their box-office sales to a film fund even though they keep more than 60% of the proceeds, according to a report by IMCINE. In the U.S., cinemas split box-office receipts 50-50 with studios on most movies.

Attempts to establish film quotas that would set aside a specific number of theater screens for Mexican films have been quashed by lobbying efforts by the Motion Picture Assn. of America, the U.S. trade group that represents studios and exhibitors.

"In Mexico, as moviemakers, we starve to death," said Jose Ludlow, the producer of "Love in the Time of Cholera," who now works full time in Hollywood.

He said Mexico's government had lagged behind Brazil, Colombia, Argentina and Puerto Rico in establishing subsidies and tax incentives to entice film production. "The government has not realized what a great source of revenue film production could bring to the country. They are asleep at the wheel," Ludlow said.

Like the nannies and dishwashers who depart Mexico for the promise of the United States, ambitious filmmakers have done the same. Affectionately calling themselves Frijolywood, a play on the Spanish word for bean (frijol), many have landed in Hollywood, including Oscar-nominated cinematographers Rodrigo Prieto ("Babel"), Emmanuel Lubezki ("Children of Men"), Guillermo Navarro ("Pan's Labyrinth") and actress Salma Hayek.

The brain drain is a source of resentment for some filmmakers who stayed put in Mexico. They say Mexico needs a critical mass of talent if it is to build a flourishing Hollywood-style system for financing films.

"As soon as they have some success, they leave," said Billy Rovzar, an American-educated independent producer who co-founded Mexico City-based Lemon Films with his brother Fernando. "That is a problem."

If making movies in Hollywood is challenging, it is a near-heroic act in Mexico. González Iñárritu, whose "Babel" has a shot at winning the best-picture Oscar on Sunday, spent three years making his debut film, "Amores Perros." He and his crew were robbed at gunpoint while scouting one location and had to rely on protection from a street gang to ensure the shoot.

His movie, which cost $2 million, was finally released in Mexico in 2000 and became a box-office smash, grossing more than $10 million. Although González Iñárritu recouped his 20% investment, he never made a profit.

He left Mexico to make his next film, "21 Grams." With the rise of kidnappings in the capital, González Iñárritu worried about his family's safety. He was nervous about making a living. "It really hurt me to leave Mexico," said the 43-year old director, who lives in Santa Monica with his family.

Lining up financing is part of the challenge. Though "Pan's Labyrinth," "Babel" and "Children of Men" were made by Mexican filmmakers, only "Babel" had any investment from Mexico. "Pan's Labyrinth," which is Mexico's official Oscar foreign-language entry, was shot in Spain and largely financed by a Spanish television network, Telecinco.

Mexican investors seem disinclined to gamble on moviemaking. Gabriel Beristain, a cinematographer who has worked on a range of films including "Dolores Claiborne" and "The Ring Two," had hoped to start a privately owned, state-of-the-art studio in Mexico to re-energize production.

In 1999, through a former schoolmate, then-President Ernesto Zedillo, Beristain met Carlos Slim, owner of Mexico's telephone monopoly and, according to Forbes magazine, the world's third-richest man.

They drove to a vacant lot owned by Slim on the outskirts of the capital to discuss Beristain's plan. Slim listened and then, as Beristain tells it, asked him a simple question: "He said, 'Mr. Beristain, do you have any money?' And I said, 'No, Mr. Slim, not even half a cent. But I do have the know-how and the will.' And he said, 'Yes, but do you have any money, Mr. Beristain?' And that was the last time I heard from him."

Beristain closed his Mexican production company in 2001 and settled permanently in Los Angeles. He is now planning to direct a movie about Tina Modotti, an Italian photographer who lived in Mexico during the 1920s, that will be financed by Mark Cuban's 29/29 Productions.

Slim declined to be interviewed.

Filmmakers in Mexico's trenches are hoping that a tax incentive passed last year by Mexico's Congress will help spur private investment in film production. The incentive would allow individuals or corporations to allocate as much as 10% of their federal tax payments to a national filmmaking fund.

There appears to be some interest from such companies as Grupo Salinas, a media and telephone conglomerate; Corporación Moctezuma, the dominant beer maker; and retail giant Liverpool. Accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers has been advising individuals and corporations on the law, which will take effect in March.

But it remains to be seen whether other crucial pieces fall into place. "The real proof will be in good movies," said Mariano Teran, senior tax manager at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Mexico. "Filmmakers have to understand this is not a gift from the government but that they have to earn it."

How that will play out remains to be seen. Historically, Mexican filmmakers have relied almost exclusively on the government to fund their movies. This has led to cronyism and complacency, Cuarón said.

When Cuarón and Del Toro began their careers, they had to go outside of Mexico's film establishment to make their movies, in part because they had difficulty joining the Mexican film unions.

Del Toro, González Iñárritu and Cuarón are still outsiders: None has been invited to join Mexico's equivalent of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

"My generation and up was raised suckling from the PRI," said Cuarón, 44, referring to the political party that ruled Mexico for seven decades. He said the younger generation was cutting its ties, trying to copy the Hollywood model of financing.

For instance, the Rovzar brothers returned to Mexico in 2003 fresh from Boston University and the University of San Diego with a plan to make three to five movies a year. To make their movies, which cost $2 million to $3 million apiece, they receive 30% of their budget from the government film fund and the rest from investors.

Billy Rovzar said that after two profitable movies, investors were now coming to him. To make sure his movies are commercial, he has tried to make them as wide in their appeal as possible. He made sure "Kilómetro 31" received the equivalent of a PG-13 rating rather than an R.

"An R rating would have cut our audience by a third," he said, noting that the movie, costing $3 million, has grossed $8 million after only three weeks in release. "You can push the envelope a little, but the more people see your movie, the more money you will make. Our goal is box-office entertainment, not art."

But making movies with wide appeal is not everyone's cup of tea. And even some who have made wildly popular films feel they need to leave in order to grow into great filmmakers.

It took directors Rodolfo and Gabriel Riva Palacio four years to find financing for their first animated feature, "Una Pelicula de Huevos." The film, about the adventures of a couple of eggs, plays on the double meaning of huevos, which in Spanish means "eggs" but also "testicles."

After opening in April 2006, "Una Pelicula de Huevos" went on to gross about $15 million, as much as "Shrek" did in Mexico and more than any other animated Mexican film ever. The brothers got a call from Creative Artists Agency, the Hollywood talent firm. This month they met with executives from Universal Pictures, DreamWorks Animation and Cartoon Network to discuss future projects.

On Oscar night, the Riva Palacio brothers intend to cheer on their Mexican compatriots. But they also hope they too can walk up onstage one day.

"Maybe in 20 years or so, Mexico will have an industry," said Rodolfo, 36. "But until it does, we are ready for the studios to tell us, 'Hey, you two, come to Hollywood.' "


Muñoz reported from Los Angeles and Johnson from Mexico City.


Begin text of infobox

By the numbers

Mexico lags behind many other countries in films released each year. Figures are for 2005:

U.S.... 563

France ...200 (estimated)

Spain ...142

Britain ...89

Brazil ...42



Los Angeles Times

El regreso del idiota

El regreso del idiota

Por Mario Vargas Llosa

Hace diez años apareció el Manual del perfecto idiota latinoamericano , en el que Plinio Apuleyo Mendoza, Carlos Alberto Montaner y Alvaro Vargas Llosa arremetían con tanto humor como ferocidad contra los lugares comunes, el dogmatismo ideológico y la ceguera política que están detrás del atraso de América latina.

El libro, que golpeaba sin misericordia, pero con sólidos argumentos y pruebas al canto, la incapacidad casi genética de la derecha cerril y la izquierda boba para aceptar una evidencia histórica -que el verdadero progreso es inseparable de una alianza irrompible de dos libertades, la política y la económica, en otras palabras, de democracia y mercado-, tuvo un éxito inesperado. Además de llegar a un vasto público, provocó saludables polémicas y las inevitables diatribas en un continente "idiotizado" por la prédica ideológica tercermundista, en todas sus aberrantes variaciones, desde el nacionalismo, el estatismo y el populismo hasta, cómo no, el odio a Estados Unidos y al "neoliberalismo".

Una década después, los tres autores vuelven ahora a sacar las espadas y a cargar contra los ejércitos de "idiotas" que, quién lo duda, en estos últimos tiempos, de un confín al otro del continente latinoamericano, en vez de disminuir parecen reproducirse a la velocidad de los conejos y cucarachas, animales de fecundidad proverbial. El humor está siempre allí, así como la pugnacidad y la defensa a voz en cuello, sin el menor complejo de inferioridad, de esas ideas liberales que, en las circunstancias actuales, parecen particularmente impopulares en el continente de marras.

Pero ¿es realmente así? Las mejores páginas de El regreso del idiota están dedicadas a deslindar las fronteras entre lo que los autores del libro llaman la "izquierda vegetariana", con la que casi simpatizan, y la "izquierda carnívora", a la que detestan. Representan a la primera los socialistas chilenos -Ricardo Lagos y Michelle Bachelet-, el brasileño Lula da Silva, el uruguayo Tabaré Vázquez, el peruano Alan García y hasta parecería -¡quién lo hubiera dicho!- el nicaragüense Ortega, que ahora se abraza con, y comulga con frecuencia de manos de su viejo archienemigo, el cardenal Obando.

Esta izquierda ya dejó de ser socialista en la práctica y es, en estos momentos, la más firme defensora del capitalismo -mercados libres y empresa privada- aunque sus líderes, en sus discursos, rindan todavía pleitesía a la vieja retórica y de la boca para afuera homenajeen a Fidel Castro y al comandante Chávez.

Esta izquierda parece haber entendido que las viejas recetas del socialismo jurásico -dictadura política y economía estatizada- sólo podían seguir hundiendo a sus países en el atraso y la miseria. Y, felizmente, se han resignado a la democracia y al mercado.

La "izquierda carnívora", en cambio, que, hace algunos años, parecía una antigualla en vías de extinción que no sobreviviría al más longevo dictador de la historia de América latina -Fidel Castro-, ha renacido de sus cenizas con el "idiota" estrella de este libro, el comandante Hugo Chávez, a quien, en un capítulo que no tiene desperdicio, los autores radiografían en su entorno privado y público con su desmesura y sus payasadas, su delirio mesiánico y su anacronismo, así como la astuta estrategia totalitaria que gobierna su política.

Discípulo e instrumento suyo, el boliviano Evo Morales, representa, dentro de la "izquierda carnívora", la subespecie "indigenista", que, pretendiendo subvertir cinco siglos de racismo "blanco", predica un racismo quechua y aymara, idiotez que, aunque en países como Bolivia, Perú, Ecuador, Guatemala y México carezca por completo de solvencia conceptual, pues en todas esas sociedades el grueso de la población es ya mestiza y tanto los indios como los blancos "puros" son minorías, entre los "idiotas" europeos y norteamericanos, siempre sensibles a cualquier estereotipo relacionado con América latina, ha causado excitado furor.

Aunque en la "izquierda carnívora", por ahora, sólo figuran, de manera inequívoca, tres trogloditas -Castro, Chávez y Morales- en El regreso del idiota se analiza con sutileza el caso del flamante presidente Correa, de Ecuador, grandilocuente tecnócrata, quien podría venir a engordar sus huestes.

Los personajes inclasificables de esta nomenclatura son el presidente argentino, Kirchner, y su guapa esposa, la senadora Cristina Fernández (y acaso sucesora), maestros del camaleonismo político, pues pueden pasar de "vegetarianos" a "carnívoros" y viceversa en cuestión de días y a veces de horas, embrollando todos los esquemas racionales posibles (como ha hecho el peronismo a lo largo de su historia).

Una novedad en El regreso del idiota sobre el libro anterior es que ahora el fenómeno de la idiotez no lo auscultan los autores sólo en América latina; también en Estados Unidos y en Europa, donde, como demuestran estas páginas con ejemplos que producen a veces carcajadas y a veces llanto, la idiotez ideológica tiene también robustas y epónimas encarnaciones. Los ejemplos están bien escogidos: encabeza el palmarés el inefable Ignacio Ramonet, director de Le Monde Diplomatique , tribuna insuperable de toda la especie en el Viejo Continente y autor del más obsecuente y servil libro sobre Fidel Castro -¡y vaya que era difícil lograrlo!-, y lo escolta Noam Chomsky, caso flagrante de esquizofrenia intelectual, que es inspirado y hasta genial cuando se confina en la lingüística transformacional y un "idiota" irredimible cuando desbarra sobre política.

La Madre Patria está representada por el dramaturgo Alfonso Sastre y sus churriguerescas distinciones entre el terrorismo bueno y el terrorismo malo, y los premios Nobel por Harold Pinter, autor de espesos dramas experimentales raramente comprensibles y sólo al alcance de públicos archiburgueses y exquisitos, y demagogo impresentable cuando vocifera contra la cultura democrática.

En el capítulo final, El regreso del idiota propone una pequeña biblioteca para desidiotizarse y alcanzar la lucidez política. La selección es bastante heterogénea pues figuran en ella desde clásicos del pensamiento liberal, como Camino de servidumbre , de Hayek, La sociedad abierta y sus enemigos , de Popper, y La acción humana , de von Mises, hasta novelas como El cero y el infinito , de Koestler, y los mamotretos narrativos de Ayn Rand El manantial y La rebelión de Atlas . (A mi juicio, hubiera sido preferible incluir cualquiera de los ensayos o panfletos de Ayn Rand, cuyo incandescente individualismo desbordaba el liberalismo y tocaba el anarquismo, en vez de sus novelas que, como toda literatura edificante y propagandística, son ilegibles.)

Nada que objetar, en cambio, a la presencia en esta lista de Gary Becker, Jean François Revel, Milton Friedman y (el único hispano hablante de la selección) Carlos Rangel, cuyo fantasma debe sufrir lo indecible con lo que está ocurriendo en su tierra, una Venezuela que ya no reconocería.

Pese a su buen humor, a su refrescante insolencia y a la buena cara que sus autores se empeñan en poner ante los malos vientos que corren por América latina, es imposible no advertir en las páginas de este libro un hálito de desmoralización. No es para menos. Porque lo cierto es que, a pesar de los casos exitosos de modernización que señala -el ya conocido de Chile y el promisorio de El Salvador, sobre el que aporta datos muy interesantes, así como los triunfos electorales de Uribe en Colombia, de Alan García en Perú y de Calderón en México, que fueron claras derrotas para el "idiota" en cuestión- lo cierto es que en buena parte de América latina hay un claro retroceso de la democracia liberal y un retorno del populismo, incluso en su variante más cavernaria: la del estatismo y colectivismo comunistas.

Esa es la angustiosa conclusión que subyace a este libro afiebrado y batallador: en América latina, al menos, hay una cierta forma de idiotez ideológica que parece irreductible. Se le puede ganar batallas pero no la guerra, porque, como la hidra mitológica, sus tentáculos se reproducen una y otra vez, inmunizada contra las enseñanzas y desmentidos de la historia, ciega, sorda e impenetrable a todo lo que no sea su propia tiniebla.

Link permanente:

Friday, February 23, 2007

Recipe: Slow-roasted shoulder of pork with salsa verde

We developed the recipe for this succulent roast in 2005 and we still dream about it.
Times Staff Writers

Total time: 20 minutes plus 8 1/2 to 10 1/2 hours roasting time

Servings: 8 to 10

10 garlic cloves, peeled

1/2 cup fennel seeds

2 tablespoons coarse sea salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

5 to 6 small dried red chiles, crumbled, with seeds

1 boneless pork shoulder butt (about 6 to 7 pounds)

1/2 cup hot water

Juice of 1 lemon

1/2 cup chicken broth

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided

Salsa verde (recipe follows)

1. Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Using a mortar and pestle, crush the garlic and fennel seeds and mix them together. Add the salt, pepper and chiles and combine.

2. Cut 1-inch wide slits all over the surface including top and bottom of meat. Rub the garlic-seed mixture into the slits.

3. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large, heavy Dutch oven. Sear the meat on all sides over medium-low heat for about 10 to 12 minutes. Do not allow the garlic to burn.

4. Remove the roast from the pot, add the hot water, stirring and scraping the bottom to deglaze the pan. Place a rack in the bottom of the pan, add the meat, fatty side up, and roast in the oven uncovered for 30 minutes.

5. Pour the lemon juice and the chicken broth over the meat. Brush with the remaining olive oil.

6. Reduce the heat to 250 degrees, cover the pan and roast the meat 8 to 10 hours, occasionally basting with pan juices. The roast will be done when the meat is falls apart when barely touched with a fork.

7. Remove the roast from the pot and place it on a serving platter. Skim the fat from the pan drippings. Serve pan drippings on the side or drizzled over the meat.

Each of 10 servings: 377 calories; 36 grams protein; 6 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams fiber; 23 grams fat; 7 grams saturated fat; 121 mg. cholesterol; 588 mg. sodium.


Salsa verde

Total time: 35 minutes

Servings: 8 to 10

Note: From Don Dickman of Rocca in Santa Monica

2 cups Italian parsley leaves

1 cup basil leaves

1 cup mint leaves

2 salt-packed anchovy fillets, soaked in water for 30 minutes, rinsed and patted dry

1/2 cup salt-packed capers, soaked in water for 30 minutes, rinsed and dried

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 to 3 garlic cloves, peeled

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Salt, pepper

1. Wash parsley, basil and mint leaves and spin dry in a salad spinner.

2. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the parsley, basil, mint, anchovies, capers, mustard, garlic and red pepper flakes.

3. With the motor running, slowly add the olive oil. It should form a relatively smooth puree that is slightly chunky. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Makes 1 cup.

Each of 10 servings: 111 calories; 1 gram protein; 2 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 11 grams fat; 2 grams saturated fat; 1 mg. cholesterol; 216 mg. sodium.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


Plus Ça (Climate) Change
The Earth was warming before global warming was cool.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007 12:01 a.m.

When Eric the Red led the Norwegian Vikings to Greenland in the late 900s, it was an ice-free farm country--grass for sheep and cattle, open water for fishing, a livable climate--so good a colony that by 1100 there were 3,000 people living there. Then came the Ice Age. By 1400, average temperatures had declined by 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, the glaciers had crushed southward across the farmlands and harbors, and the Vikings did not survive.

Such global temperature fluctuations are not surprising, for looking back in history we see a regular pattern of warming and cooling. From 200 B.C. to A.D. 600 saw the Roman Warming period; from 600 to 900, the cold period of the Dark Ages; from 900 to 1300 was the Medieval warming period; and 1300 to 1850, the Little Ice Age.

During the 20th century the earth did indeed warm--by 1 degree Fahrenheit. But a look at the data shows that within the century temperatures varied with time: from 1900 to 1910 the world cooled; from 1910 to 1940 it warmed; from 1940 to the late 1970s it cooled again, and since then it has been warming. Today our climate is 1/20th of a degree Fahrenheit warmer than it was in 2001.

Many things are contributing to such global temperature changes. Solar radiation is one. Sunspot activity has reached a thousand-year high, according to European astronomy institutions. Solar radiation is reducing Mars's southern icecap, which has been shrinking for three summers despite the absence of SUVS and coal-fired electrical plants anywhere on the Red Planet. Back on Earth, a NASA study reports that solar radiation has increased in each of the past two decades, and environmental scholar Bjorn Lomborg, citing a 1997 atmosphere-ocean general circulation model, observes that "the increase in direct solar irradiation over the past 30 years is responsible for about 40 percent of the observed global warming."

Statistics suggest that while there has indeed been a slight warming in the past century, much of it was neither human-induced nor geographically uniform. Half of the past century's warming occurred before 1940, when the human population and its industrial base were far smaller than now. And while global temperatures are now slightly up, in some areas they are dramatically down. According to "Climate Change and Its Impacts," a study published last spring by the National Center for Policy Analysis, the ice mass in Greenland has grown, and "average summer temperatures at the summit of the Greenland ice sheet have decreased 4 degrees Fahrenheit per decade since the late 1980s." British environmental analyst Lord Christopher Monckton says that from 1993 through 2003 the Greenland ice sheet "grew an average extra thickness of 2 inches a year," and that in the past 30 years the mass of the Antarctic ice sheet has grown as well.

Earlier this month the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a summary of its fourth five-year report. Although the full report won't be out until May, the summary has reinvigorated the global warming discussion.

While global warming alarmism has become a daily American press feature, the IPCC, in its new report, is backtracking on its warming predictions. While Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" warns of up to 20 feet of sea-level increase, the IPCC has halved its estimate of the rise in sea level by the end of this century, to 17 inches from 36. It has reduced its estimate of the impact of global greenhouse-gas emissions on global climate by more than one-third, because, it says, pollutant particles reflect sunlight back into space and this has a cooling effect.

The IPCC confirms its 2001 conclusion that global warming will have little effect on the number of typhoons or hurricanes the world will experience, but it does not note that there has been a steady decrease in the number of global hurricane days since 1970--from 600 to 400 days, according to Georgia Tech atmospheric scientist Peter Webster.

The IPCC does not explain why from 1940 to 1975, while carbon dioxide emissions were rising, global temperatures were falling, nor does it admit that its 2001 "hockey stick" graph showing a dramatic temperature increase beginning in 1970s had omitted the Little Ice Age and Medieval Warming temperature changes, apparently in order to make the new global warming increases appear more dramatic.

Sometimes the consequences of bad science can be serious. In a 2000 issue of Nature Medicine magazine, four international scientists observed that "in less than two decades, spraying of houses with DDT reduced Sri Lanka's malaria burden from 2.8 million cases and 7,000 deaths [in 1948] to 17 cases and no deaths" in 1963. Then came Rachel Carson's book "Silent Spring," invigorating environmentalism and leading to outright bans of DDT in some countries. When Sri Lanka ended the use of DDT in 1968, instead of 17 malaria cases it had 480,000.

Yet the Sierra Club in 1971 demanded "a ban, not just a curb," on the use of DDT "even in the tropical countries where DDT has kept malaria under control." International environmental controls were more important than the lives of human beings. For more than three decades this view prevailed, until the restrictions were finally lifted last September.

As we have seen since the beginning of time, and from the Vikings' experience in Greenland, our world experiences cyclical climate changes. America needs to understand clearly what is happening and why before we sign onto U.N. environmental agreements, shut down our industries and power plants, and limit our economic growth.
Mr. du Pont, a former governor of Delaware, is chairman of the Dallas-based National Center for Policy Analysis. His column appears once a month.

Copyright © 2007 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Friday, February 16, 2007

Desdichas de la violencia revolucionaria

Desdichas de la violencia revolucionaria

Por Marcos Aguinis

La revolución bolivariana y la islámica son las que más inquietan en estos años, por su irrefrenable y peligroso anhelo de exportación global. Aunque se mantienen gracias a los desorbitantes precios del petróleo, pueden tardar en sucumbir, dejando tras de sí demasiadas ruinas. Pese a su grotesca fraternidad, sus libretos son culturalmente distintos, pero coinciden en su anhelo de consolidar la tiranía, una teocrática y la otra militar. También coinciden en su desprecio por la democracia, la libertad y el pluralismo. Son mesiánicas, intolerantes y belicosas. Encandilan con sus promesas y se maquillan de buenas intenciones. Sin embargo, no escapan ni escaparán al destino de lamentables revoluciones que las precedieron. Basta echar un vistazo a lo ocurrido con las revoluciones francesa, rusa, china y cubana, entre otras, para despertar ante sus trágicos periplos.

Un amigo distante de Marx, el poeta Heinrich Heine, escribió que temía a los idealistas revolucionarios, pese a tenerles alguna simpatía, porque cuando tengan poder despreciarán la libertad y el arte, no amarán las flores ni respetarán las diferencias. En otro texto fantaseó estar en la cabeza de un revolucionario, aparentemente angelical. Sus súplicas al buen Dios comenzaban exhibiendo inocencia: quería una habitación aireada, una sólida mesa para comer y escribir, y una ventana amplia por la que vería grandes y hermosos árboles... de los que colgarían sus enemigos.

La revolución islámica de Irán enarbolaba el repudio al absolutismo del sha antes de tomar el poder por asalto. Pero en cuanto se hizo de las riendas, impuso un abolutismo peor. Sus fanáticos no tuvieron escrúpulos en profanar la universal tradición de la inmunidad diplomática –cuyo origen se remonta a las ciudades-Estado de la Grecia antigua, adoptada sin excepción por Oriente y Occidente–. Usurparon la embajada norteamericana por 444 días, sin importarles las protestas que generó el insólito agravio. Persiguieron, torturaron y asesinaron.

Adoptaron la palabra revolución, porque legitimaba sus abusos y anunciaba algo nuevo, maravilloso. La violencia revolucionaria se vincula con la epopeya de hacer historia. Ansía grandes cambios, mejor distribución de la riqueza y una redención total. Suena a gloria y heroísmo. Es sagrada. Por eso, también se autotitulan revoluciones unas simples asonadas, crímenes de palacio y burdos golpes de Estado.

Según la filología, sin embargo, revolución es otra cosa. ¡Qué decepción! En el Renacimiento, esa palabra se refería al movimiento cíclico, regular y lento que siguen los astros. El modelo se aplicó a la naturaleza, donde ocurren mutaciones periódicas. Igual que los astros y la naturaleza, también las sociedades protagonizan revoluciones que no son más que vueltas de reacomodo. Restauran el estado previo de las cosas. No debería sorprendernos, entonces, que los ayatolas atrasaran las agujas del reloj para imponer un pasado teocrático, represivo, guerrero y expansionista que parecía condenado a los libros de historia.

Asombrosamente, por lo tanto, el significado original de revolución contradice al que ahora se le atribuye en forma unánime. No quería decir marcha hacia el futuro, sino hacia el pasado. Retroceso. Retroceso de la libertad y el nivel de vida. Que es lo que terminó por imponerse en casi todas: terror, muerte, dictadura, sometimiento, pobreza. ¿Acaso el progreso necesita siempre de la violencia para superar la oposición del statu quo? Marx, encandilado por la Revolución Francesa, opinaba que sí, que la violencia es la partera de la historia. Pero ¿qué hace la partera con el recién nacido que se transforma en un monstruo?

Muchos momentos decisivos de la humanidad no han necesitado esa partera ni han recibido el mote de revolución. Por ejemplo: la convivencia tricultural en Andalucía, el Renacimiento italiano, la invención de la imprenta, la Reforma protestante, el descubrimiento de América.

La Revolución Francesa, en cambio, fue el primer cimbronazo de dimensiones que popularizó esa palabra, aplicada después en forma retrospectiva a la independencia norteamericana y a los cambios sin violencia de Inglaterra un siglo antes.

La volcánica Revolución Francesa encendió caudales de ilusión, de epopeya y de brutalidad. Rouget de Lisle compuso la Marsellesa en Estrasburgo con su ordinario violín, durante una noche de francachela y alcohol; en París fue asaltada la cárcel de la Bastilla; pronto arrestaron al rey, su familia y centenares de nobles que pasaron por humillaciones extremas y el asesinato masivo; mientras, en medio de un alzamiento vertiginoso volaba hacia los cuatro vientos una hipnótica e inmortal consigna: Libertad, Igualdad, Fraternidad.

La fiesta tenía que llevar a un estadio superior. El ancien régime se desmoronaba y nuevos protagonistas tomaban el poder. Pero en menos de un lustro comenzaron las disputas que olvidaron el estridente lema y hundieron a Francia en un terror infernal. La guillotina no daba abasto y parecía necesaria para impedir el retorno de los vencidos. Los que se consideraban representantes de la mayoría necesitaron exterminar a las minorías de todos los demás colores. Ninguna compasión, ninguna prueba de inocencia, ningún juramento de lealtad al nuevo gobierno podía excluir la ejecución sumaria. Fue asesinado el químico Lavoisier con la misma ignorante ferocidad con la que se asesinaba a niños, nobles que no sabían usar un arma y hasta inventados enemigos burgueses.

El deseo de venganza por rivalidades personales se zanjaba levantando un dedo; las turbas felices condenaban a quien fuese para gozar el espectáculo de la sangre derramada. La paranoia se extendió sobre el país como aguas de una creciente. Después decapitaron a los revolucionarios moderados y a quienes objetaban los caprichos de los jefes. A continuación los jefes se liquidaron entre ellos: Robespierre mandó guillotinar a Danton y otros mandaron guillotinar a Robespierre.

Con el terror murió la Libertad, la Igualdad y la Fraternidad sin haber siquiera comenzado a gatear. El capítulo siguiente lo escribió Napoleón Bonaparte, quien construyó una nueva nobleza y reinstaló el gobierno absolutista que se había querido eliminar para siempre. Luego volvieron los Borbones, como una condena del sentido original que tenía la palabra revolución. Más adelante se instaló por fin la república, pero el pasado violento, que produjo la osteoporosis de las instituciones del país, no la dejó sostenerse.

La violencia revolucionaria causó demasiada erosión de valores y esa república fue sustituida por otro rey. A éste le siguió una segunda república, a su vez destruida por el Segundo Imperio; lo sucedió la tercera república, luego reemplazada por una cuarta y una quinta, como enfermizas secuelas de aquella violencia revolucionaria que había despertado fuertes y muy cortos sueños.

La Revolución Francesa de 1789 no aportó la esperada libertad, igualdad ni fraternidad, sino lo contrario: desquició el país. No impulsó el establecimiento de una democracia firme, donde sí podrían alcanzar plenitud y estabilidad, evolutivamente, los tres grandiosos sustantivos.

Pero el impacto emocional que dejó fue inmenso y las sucesivas revoluciones siguieron su modelo deslumbrante.

¿La Revolución bolchevique no estuvo también nimbada por las esperanzas de gran parte del género humano? Sin embargo, igual que la francesa, giró hacia la dictadura, el torrente de cadáveres, la censura en la prensa y el arte, la persecución de opositores, el genocidio de minorías. Y la odiosa erección de una nueva y privilegiada nobleza.

Un derrotero análogo siguió la Revolución china. Mao Tse-tung, una vez tomado el poder, se dedicó a una feroz caza de "contrarrevolucionarios", que incluía los antiguos camaradas que podrían disputarle el mando. Todo sospechoso fue calificado de "bandido", "enemigo de clase" o "espía". Mao llegó a quejarse por la lentitud de algunos juicios y ejecuciones. Una de sus órdenes rezaba: "Quiero arrestos masivos y asesinatos masivos". Se calcula que fue responsable por la muerte de 76 millones de personas. Dijo que para lograr sus objetivos, no le importaba que muriese la mitad del país.

La revolución cubana mantuvo durante corto tiempo la mentira de restaurar la democracia. Pero comenzó a fusilar con deleite. Las turbas fueron exaltadas con el siniestro grito de "¡paredón! ¡paredón!" Hubo centenares de juicios sumarios y hasta fusilamientos sin juicio. Raúl Castro dio el ejemplo de ordenar la muerte de 70 personas en un solo día haciéndolas cavar una zanja donde caerían sus cuerpos acribillados por la espalda.

Siempre se agita la ilusión previa de liberación, que luego se corrompe con asesinatos, censura, campos de concentración, tiranía. Parecería que continuara echando chispas la maldición etimológica, porque en vez de conducir al futuro, tracciona hacia atrás, hacia los males que pretendía corregir. Cambia el decorado y los actores, no el guión.

En cambio, la revolución gloriosa de Inglaterra no recurrió a la violencia y por eso se tardó en llamarla revolución. Pudo acercarse a los objetivos de la Revolución Francesa un siglo antes, sin guillotina ni persecuciones ni destrucción de las instituciones. Su ejemplo notable induce a cuestionar los méritos de la violencia revolucionaria que promete una cosa y establece lo opuesto, que habla de libertad mientras impone la dictadura y humilla a quienes opinan distinto.

¿Existe la libertad, igualdad y fraternidad en las dos revoluciones que ahora titilan en las primeras páginas de los diarios? ¿Hay libertad cuando se censura a la prensa, a los individuos y se cambian las leyes según los caprichos del jefe o su entorno? ¿Hay igualdad cuando las minorías pierden derechos y sólo gobierna una casta de privilegiados? ¿Hay fraternidad cuando se exalta el odio, se descalifica y se persigue?

Los revolucionarios, que nada respetan para conseguir sus utópicos objetivos, no dejan de cometer crímenes contra personas e instituciones a fin de consolidarse. Se sienten autorizados a destruir. Lo hacen en nombre de ideales que a la postre traicionan. Y en lugar de empujar hacia un mundo más justo, humanístico y creativo, arrastran al pozo del atraso, la uniformidad mediocre y el despotismo.

Estas son las desdichas que se deben tener presentes para balancear el exceso de loas a los beneficios de la violencia revolucionaria, que suelen transformarse en maldiciones duras de corregir.

Link permanente:

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Maestro of Spaghetti Westerns Takes a Bow

NY Times -


FOR many filmmakers through the years, a certain kind of pilgrimage to Rome leads to the opulent parlor of the composer Ennio Morricone. It's the place where he has discussed grand concepts and crucial details, and often unveiled new themes on the piano, for the distinctive film scores he has written over the past four decades, from "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" to "The Mission." There are more than 400 of them, though he hasn't kept count.

Next Saturday Mr. Morricone, 78, makes his long-overdue American concert debut with 200 musicians and singers at Radio City Music Hall. It is the beginning of a triumphal month in the United States that will also include festivals of his films at the Museum of Modern Art and Film Forum, and the release of a tribute album, "We All Love Ennio Morricone" (Sony Masterworks), with performances from Bruce Springsteen, Renée Fleming, Herbie Hancock and Metallica, among others. On Feb. 25 he will be presented with an honorary Academy Award for lifetime achievement, atoning for past omissions. After five nominations, he has never won.

Massimo Gallotta, the promoter who is producing the concert, has been working for more than a year to present Mr. Morricone's American debut. "It was strange for me that Morricone had never performed here in the past," Mr. Gallotta said. "He agreed right away. And then I was lucky about the Oscar, the CD, everything."

Mr. Morricone has given concerts periodically in Europe, including a December performance that drew 50,000 people to the Piazza del Duomo in Milan. At Radio City he will lead the 100-piece Roma Sinfonietta orchestra, along with the 100-member Canticum Novum Singers.

Everyone except Maestro Morricone, as he is called in Rome, considers him startlingly prolific. Along with his hundreds of film scores, he has composed a sizable body of concert music like "Voci dal Silencio" ("Voices From the Silence"), a cantata he wrote in response to "the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 and all the massacres of humanity all over the world," he said. He will be performing that work on Friday at the United Nations, at a concert welcoming the new secretary general, Ban Ki-moon.

"The notion that I am a composer who writes a lot of things is true on one hand and not true on the other hand," he said in an interview at his home, speaking in Italian through a translator. "Maybe my time is better organized than many other people's. But compared to classical composers like Bach, Frescobaldi, Palestrina or Mozart, I would define myself as unemployed."

Maestro Morricone is a flinty, pragmatic character, but one who marvels at what he called "the strange miracle of music." He looked like a bespectacled businessman, wearing a sport jacket, dark trousers, white shirt and tie. He greeted any generalizations about his work with a shrug, or a terse, "That is up to the audience to decide." But through the years he has created music that is as memorable as the films it accompanies, and sometimes more so.

Audiences respond to the operatic sweep of themes like the ones he wrote for "Cinema Paradiso" and "Once Upon a Time in America." Musicians prize the ingenuity of his writing: the unexpected harmonic turns, the odd meters (even in tunes that seem to be marches), the use of silence and wide spaces between instruments. Meanwhile hipsters and producers delight in the almost sardonic themes he wrote for films like "Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion" and the striking, sample-ready timbres he has invented.

For "1900" he wrote a score that encompasses Italian folk songs and dance music as well as symphonic arrangements. "He is someone with two identities," said Bernardo Bertolucci, that film's director. "One is the composer of contemporary music, and the other is this composer of big epics, this popular music for movies. All his life he has been trying to nourish one identity with the other one, and it is as if the two voices were enriching each other. He has a great capacity of harmonizing in himself."

Maestro Morricone's parlor, in a palazzo with a view of the Campidoglio hill in the center of Rome, is a Baroque room so large that the grand piano is almost lost amid the lavishly ornamented chairs, couches and tables. A small silver frame holds a family photo full of children and grandchildren. (He has three sons and a daughter; one son, Andrea, is a composer, and another, Giovanni, is a film director.)

At one corner of the room, a doorway leads into the office where Mr. Morricone writes his music. An unobtrusive movie screen, big enough for some multiplexes, can unroll down one wall of the parlor. On the other walls an antique tapestry of the abduction of the Sabine women is flanked by surreal, turbulent 20th-century paintings full of striking colors and brooding shadows.

The room's mixture of elegant history and menacing modernity echoes the qualities that have made generations of directors — from Sergio Leone with "A Fistful of Dollars" to Terrence Malick with "Days of Heaven" to Roland Joffe with "The Mission" to Giuseppe Tornatore with "Cinema Paradiso" and "Malèna" — seek out Mr. Morricone.

He composes not at the piano or on a computer but at an imposing desk in his writing studio, amid shelves of books, LPs, CDs, tapes and DVDs. On a coffee table supported by a realistic rhinoceros is a neat stack of score paper with all the parts for an orchestra written in pencil: Mr. Morricone's next batch of soundtracks.

His extensive background in classical music can be heard in his swelling love themes and in his meticulous orchestrations, which can suggest the stateliness of the 18th century or the eerie dissonances of the 20th. Unlike younger film composers who create their music as studio recordings rather than manuscripts, or who hand off their themes for others to arrange, Mr. Morricone writes full scores and conducts them himself.

"He doesn't have a piano in his studio," said the director Barry Levinson, who commissioned Mr. Morricone for "Bugsy," a soundtrack nominated for an Academy Award. "I always thought that with composers, you sit at the piano, and you try to find the melody. There's no such thing with him. He hears a melody, and he writes it down. He hears the orchestration completely done."

Mr. Morricone grew up playing trumpet like his father, who worked in jazz bands and opera orchestras; sometimes Ennio substituted for him at gigs. While studying trumpet and composition at the Conservatorio di Santa Cecilia in Rome, Mr. Morricone was also arranging and sometimes writing pop songs. His film scores invoke centuries of popular music, from tarantellas and polkas to psychedelia, lounge pop and avant-garde jazz.

Mr. Morricone has also experimented constantly with timbre, using surf-rock guitar or jew's harp, panpipes or synthesizer, wordless voices or exotic percussion. For the beginning of "Once Upon a Time in the West," he persuaded the director, Mr. Leone, not to use conventional instruments at all: just amplified ambient sounds, from the creak of a swinging sign to the screech of an arriving train.

He pushes instruments to the extremes of their ranges and dynamics, and voices too. For "Navajo Joe," he drew yowls and shrieks from the singers he hired. "When they finished recording, they were crying because what had been done sounded so terrible to them," Mr. Morricone said with satisfaction.

His approach, he said, reflects his education and his era. "I have studied the expressive methods of the entire history of musical composition," he said. "At times I turn more toward light music, at times I turn more toward serious music. I mingle things, and sometimes I turn into a chameleon. We are living in a modern world, and in contemporary music the central fact is contamination, not the contamination of disease but the contamination of musical styles. If you find this in me, that is good."

In the films that established his reputation in the 1960s, the series of spaghetti westerns he scored for Mr. Leone, Mr. Morricone's music is anything but a backdrop. It's sometimes a conspirator, sometimes a lampoon, with tunes that are as vividly in the foreground as any of the actors' faces. The sound of an ocarina, the humble potato-shaped ceramic flute, made his name in the 1960s in the theme for "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly."

That theme was typical Morricone: a tenacious melody put across by an unlikely, unpretty, arresting combination of instruments. "I always follow an idea," he said, "and if an idea tells me I've got to use strange combinations of instruments, then I do what works." For Mr. Morricone the plan was simple. "I wanted to differentiate three timbres — the good, the bad and the ugly," he said. "A silver flute, sounding sweet, is the good. The ocarina is the ugly. And the bad is the voices of two men singing together, off key.

"I should not be revealing this," he continued. "These are family secrets."

Metallica has been using "The Ecstasy of Gold," from the same movie, as its entrance music since 1983, and performs its own version of the piece on the new tribute album.

"To me his music is just absolutely inspirational, corny as that may sound," said James Hetfield, Metallica's singer and guitarist. "He has taken so many risks, and his music is not polished whatsoever. It's very rude and blatant. All of a sudden a Mexican horn will come blasting through and just take over the melody. It's just so raw, really raw, and it feels real, unpolished. You hear mistakes in it, and that's just great — if they are mistakes. Who knows? There's so much character in it, and I appreciate that in such a polished world of soundtracks."

After he became known for Mr. Leone's spaghetti westerns, Mr. Morricone went on to write for every imaginable genre: crime films like "The Untouchables," historical epics like "Burn!," horror movies like "The Thing," art films like "Teorema," even an occasional comedy. He has worked with virtually every major Italian director after Fellini, as well as a long international list.

Mr. Morricone chooses his commissions based almost entirely on his trust in the director, he said. "Sometimes I read the script, sometimes I read the main part of the story, and sometimes I just watch the film when it's done and that's it," he said.

"When you work in cinema, you can't exclude anything," he added. "Lately I have scored a film, and the film had not been shot yet. It was just being shot, and I just heard the director's story of the film. This is not as negative as it seems to be, because it gives the composer the possibility to just express music — music and only music."

Mr. Levinson said that unlike many film scorers, Mr. Morricone does not want to hear the temporary music many directors use while shooting. He watches a movie without accompaniment and takes notes, sometimes coming up with themes immediately. "They usually give you less time than necessary, but I usually ask for a month," he said. "When I have to compose I have no holidays. I write every day. And Saturday and Sunday are even better, because the phone doesn't ring that much."

Mr. Morricone is wary of having too much music in a film. "It's useless," he said. "After a while the audience loses track, and you cannot appreciate the psychological idea and aim that the music has."

He often presents himself as the servant of the director and the film. "Time is the element they have in common, music and cinema," he said. "You have to take into account the actors, the plot, the intention of the director and the story you are going to score."

But he is more than a functionary. His own personality, what he has called a "musical calligraphy," comes through. "A composer is conditioned by the film, but he has to find a way to overcome these limits," he said. "And how does he do this? Through his musical culture, through his great passion for musicians of the past. And doing it time after time, little by little it becomes a style."

Is his own story in the music? "That's a romantic idea of composing, that there is autobiographical inspiration in things," he said. "Some composers, perhaps, they see a woman and say, 'I'm going to write something extraordinary because I'm thinking of her.' "

And has that happened to him? He scowled. "Niente," he said emphatically. "Never."

Freedom and Labor

WSJ - February 14, 2007

Europe just got its best jobless report in a very long time. The bad news: In a decade when record numbers of people found work in the rich world, Europe's best is an unemployment rate of 7.5%, significantly higher than America's 4.6% or that of any other developed economy.

The Old World offers a useful model of what not to do. Its largest economies -- Germany, France and Italy -- have shunned a policy mix that has enabled English-speaking and Nordic countries to reduce their jobless rolls. In its annual "Going for Growth" report released Tuesday, the OECD argues that deregulated labor and other markets are the best route to full employment. That's hardly man-bites-dog news, but the study draws on a decade's worth of empirical data to make the case.

[Back to Work]

Before a French politician gets upset, let's be clear that no one's calling for an end to the welfare state. The OECD study shows that a social safety net can coexist with strong growth and low unemployment, notwithstanding other social and economic costs. But the kind of safety net matters.

Look at the welfare-besotted Nordics, in particular Denmark, which has recently found tough love. Its "flexisecurity" system combines generous jobless benefits, strong incentives to get new work fast and lenient hiring and firing rules. This encourages Danish employers to create jobs and pushes beneficiaries back into the work pool. The result: Unemployment fell to 4.8% in 2005 from 8% in 1994 (see nearby chart).

Rigid job protection laws have the perverse effect of keeping people out of work. Germany and France are generous with benefits, lax about getting the unemployed off the dole and inflexible on hiring and firing. Such laws discourage companies from hiring and they discriminate against the jobless by raising the bar to enter the workforce; women and minorities are disproportionately hit.

In France, the overall jobless rate is a still high 8.5% today, down from 12.3% in 1994. But the youth jobless rate is three times higher. Even after its poor minority young rioted in late 2005, France did nothing to make it easier for these kids to get jobs. Unemployment in Germany rose to 10.3% in 2005, from 8.4% in 1994. After Berlin tightened eligibility rules for unemployment insurance on the margins, without touching hiring and firing rules, the rate has since gone down -- marginally -- to 9.5%. That's still a long way from Denmark or the U.S.

As the OECD study shows, countries with low jobless rates not only have the most open labor markets but also the freest product markets. These are, in descending order, the U.S., Britain, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Denmark. Except for the U.S., all these countries abandoned statist policies and opened up their economies in the past decade or two. The result: more growth and jobs. By the way, half the one-percentage-point decrease in euro-zone unemployment in the past decade comes from Spain, where market reforms got the jobless rate down to 8.5% today from 24% in 1994.

The OECD report also points out the often-overlooked benefits of deregulation to job creation. Freer competition in product and service markets reduces prices. That in turn relaxes wage demands and lets companies hire more workers. Financial deregulation, for example, tends to bring down interest rates, enabling companies to expand. In this virtuous circle, it's then theoretically easier to fix bad labor laws in a growing economy.

New governments in Italy and Germany and a soon-to-be new president in France have a chance to catch up with other developed economies on getting their citizens into jobs. The recipe isn't complicated: Reduce taxes to reduce wage costs, tighten rules on government benefits, loosen up employment protection laws. Come to think of it, the new majority in the U.S. Congress could stand to read the OECD report, too.