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There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later. Kindle Edition Verified Purchase. In places when the author was describing his emotional experience concerning orphans and the conditions they were living in, I had tears in my eyes. I have read many books about boxing but found this one refreshing from the point of view of the author. He is a lawyer, in itself unusual. He is not bloodthirsty in any way, and in my opinion he took up the sport to prove a point, finding himself in the process.

I found the author's writing style extremely entertaining and a pleasure to read. His sense of humour shone through in a number of places which I also enjoyed. I found his courage and sheer grit refreshing and inspirational. His positive outlook I believe to have been instrumental in overcoming Cancer and in his eventual recovery. I hope he will continue to write more books about his life in a wide variety of countries with the diverse lifestyles, and in particular his excellent manner in always considering his immediate friend's customs and beliefs.

A very human, and honourable person shines through his writing. A thoroughly satisfying read. Wilson is a lawyer who found boxing to be a way to grow as a person and get to know the people in the countries he visited in a way most foreigners would have access to. I'm not a boxing fan - most of my experience is with the brutal championship boxing in the western world. This book makes a good case for the benefits of amateur boxing in building physical stamina and self-confidence, including children, especially underprivileged kids who need a place to excel. It's a good, well written story.

Fantastic read, an Inspirational story which has brought back many memories of Asia. I can with ease supply thee from within With what shall suit thee better, and the gift Of all that I possess which most excels In beauty, and the noblest shall be thine. I give thee, wrought elaborate, a cup Itself all silver, bound with lip of gold. That shall be thy own. Thus busy they prepared A banquet in the mansion of the King. Say true. Hard were it to refuse. But this much moves my wonder. He ceased and loud applause heard in reply, With warm encouragement.

Nor was Penelope left uninformed Long time of their clandestine plottings deep, For herald Medon told her all, whose ear Their councils caught while in the outer-court He stood, and they that project framed within. For what cause, herald! Here end their wooing! But greater far and heavier ills than this The suitors plan, whose counsels Jove confound! Went he, that, with himself, his very name Might perish from among mankind for ever?

Then thus the gentle Euryclea spake, Nurse of Telemachus. Slay me, or spare, deal with me as thou wilt, I will confess the truth. I knew it all. I gave him all that he required from me. She said, and wept aloud, whose earnest suit Pallas received. And now the spacious hall And gloomy passages with tumult rang And clamour of that throng, when thus, a youth, Insolent as his fellows, dared to speak.

Shaped like her the dream she sent Into the mansion of the godlike Chief Ulysses, with kind purpose to abate The sighs and tears of sad Penelope. The Gods, Happy in everlasting rest themselves, Forbid thy sorrows. Then thus Penelope the wise replied. I will not now inform thee if thy Lord Live, or live not. Vain words are best unspoken. So saying, her egress swift beside the bolt She made, and melted into air.

Nam quis te, juvenum confidentissime, nostras. Egit adire domos. Nor is this all, but enemies combine To slay his son ere yet he can return From Pylus, whither he hath gone to learn There, or in Sparta, tidings of his Sire. To whom the cloud-assembler God replied. Thus Fate appoints Ulysses to regain His country, his own palace, and his friends. There many a bird of broadest pinion built Secure her nest, the owl, the kite, and daw Long-tongued, frequenter of the sandy shores. Speak thy desire; I grant it, if thou ask Things possible, and possible to me.

Questionest thou, O Goddess, me a God? I tell thee truth, since such is thy demand. Ye are unjust, ye Gods, and envious past All others, grudging if a Goddess take A mortal man openly to her arms! Then, drawing near, thus spake the nymph divine. No—let me never, in despight of thee, Embark on board a raft, nor till thou swear, O Goddess!

He said; Calypso, beauteous Goddess, smiled, And, while she spake, stroaking his cheek, replied. Thou dost asperse me rudely, and excuse Of ignorance hast none, far better taught; What words were these? Hear, too, ye waters of the Stygian stream Under the earth by which the blessed Gods Swear trembling, and revere the awful oath! That future mischief I intend thee none. No, my designs concerning thee are such As, in an exigence resembling thine, Myself, most sure, should for myself conceive. So saying, the lovely Goddess with swift pace Led on, whose footsteps he as swift pursued.

She opposite to the illustrious Chief Reposed, by her attendant maidens served With nectar and ambrosia.

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I pardon thee. Yet can I not in stature or in form Myself suspect inferior aught to her, Since competition cannot be between Mere mortal beauties, and a form divine. To whom Ulysses, ever-wise, replied. Awful Divinity! I know that my Penelope in form And stature altogether yields to thee, For she is mortal, and immortal thou, From age exempt; yet not the less I wish My home, and languish daily to return. But should some God amid the sable Deep Dash me again into a wreck, my soul Shall bear that also; for, by practice taught, I have learned patience, having much endured By tempest and in battle both.

Come then This evil also! I am well prepared. Then in a recess Interior of the cavern, side by side Reposed, they took their amorous delight. To that tall grove she led and left him there, Seeking her grot again. Wretch that I am, what destiny at last Attends me! The winds combined beat on me. Now I sink! Take this. This ribbon bind beneath thy breast, Celestial texture. Thus, therefore, will I do, for such appears My wiser course. So long as yet the planks Mutual adhere, continuing on board My raft, I will endure whatever woes, But when the waves shall shatter it, I will swim, My sole resource then left.

What if some billow catch me from the Deep Emerging, and against the pointed rocks Dash me conflicting with its force in vain? Forth from the waves Emerging, where the surf burst on the rocks, He coasted looking landward as he swam The shore, with hope of port or level beach. Oh King! Breathless and speechless, and of life well nigh Bereft he lay, through dreadful toil immense. Long time he mused, but, at the last, his course Bent to the woods, which not remote he saw From the sea-brink, conspicuous on a hill. She sought the sumptuous chamber where, in form 20 And feature perfect as the Gods, the young Nausicaa, daughter of the King, reposed.

Thy garments share, Thy most magnificent, no thought of thine. Yet thou must marry soon, and must provide Robes for thyself, and for thy nuptial train. Thy fame, on these concerns, and honour stand; These managed well, thy parents shall rejoice. Come then—solicit at the dawn of day Thy royal father, that he send thee forth With mules and carriage for conveyance hence Of thy best robes, thy mantles and thy zones.

Thus, more commodiously thou shalt perform The journey, for the cisterns lie remote. Them she found within. I grudge thee neither mules, my child, nor aught That thou canst ask beside. At the delightful rivulet arrived Where those perennial cisterns were prepared With purest crystal of the fountain fed Profuse, sufficient for the deepest stains, Loosing the mules, they drove them forth to browze On the sweet herb beside the dimpled flood. The Princess, then, casting the ball toward A maiden of her train, erroneous threw And plunged it deep into the dimpling stream.

All shrieked; Ulysses at the sound awoke, And, sitting, meditated thus the cause. Ah me! Rude are they, contumacious and unjust? Or hospitable, and who fear the Gods? So shrill the cry and feminine of nymphs Fills all the air around, such as frequent The hills, clear fountains, and herbaceous meads. Firm she expected him; he doubtful stood, Or to implore the lovely maid, her knees Embracing, or aloof standing, to ask In gentle terms discrete the gift of cloaths, And guidance to the city where she dwelt. Oh Queen! Art thou some Goddess, or of mortal race?

For if some Goddess, and from heaven arrived, Diana, then, daughter of mighty Jove I deem thee most, for such as hers appear Thy form, thy stature, and thy air divine. But if, of mortal race, thou dwell below, Thrice happy then, thy parents I account, And happy thrice thy brethren. For never with these eyes a mortal form Beheld I comparable aught to thine, In man or woman. Wonder-wrapt I gaze.

The Immortal Gods Have much to accomplish ere that day arrive. But, oh Queen, pity me! To whom Nausicaa the fair replied. Since, stranger! She said, and to her beauteous maidens gave Instant commandment—My attendants, stay! Why flee ye thus, and whither, from the sight Of a mere mortal? Seems he in your eyes Some enemy of ours? Remote, amid the billowy Deep, we hold Our dwelling, utmost of all human-kind, And free from mixture with a foreign race. Apparel also at his side they spread, Mantle and vest, and, next, the limpid oil Presenting to him in the golden cruse, Exhorted him to bathe in the clear stream.

Ye maidens, stand apart, that I may cleanse, Myself, my shoulders from the briny surf, And give them oil which they have wanted long. Then Pallas, progeny of Jove, his form Dilated more, and from his head diffused His curling locks like hyacinthine flowers. Give him, my maidens, food, and give him wine. Up, stranger! But thou for I account thee not unwise This course pursue. While through the fields we pass, And labours of the rural hind, so long With my attendants follow fast the mules And sumpter-carriage.

I will be thy guide. Where had she the chance To find him? We shall see them wedded soon. But mark me, stranger! They the stream soon left behind With even footsteps graceful smote the ground; But so she ruled them, managing with art The scourge, as not to leave afar, although Following on foot, Ulysses and her train. Daughter invincible of Jove supreme! She waited on the fair Nausicaa, she Her fuel kindled, and her food prepared. She stood before him, and the noble Chief Ulysses, of the Goddess thus enquired. To whom the Goddess of the azure-eyes. The mansion of thy search, stranger revered!

They, trusting in swift ships, by the free grant Of Neptune traverse his wide waters, borne As if on wings, or with the speed of thought. So spake the Goddess, and with nimble pace Led on, whose footsteps he, as quick, pursued. My father! Thou shalt find our Chiefs And high-born Princes banqueting within. There grew luxuriant many a lofty tree, Pomegranate, pear, the apple blushing bright, The honied fig, and unctuous olive smooth.

Not honourable to thyself, O King! Is such a sight, a stranger on the ground At the hearth-side seated, and in the dust. Ye all have feasted—To your homes and sleep. We will assemble at the dawn of day More senior Chiefs, that we may entertain The stranger here, and to the Gods perform Due sacrifice; the convoy that he asks Shall next engage our thoughts, that free from pain And from vexation, by our friendly aid He may revisit, joyful and with speed, His native shore, however far remote.

No inconvenience let him feel or harm, Ere his arrival; but, arrived, thenceforth He must endure whatever lot the Fates Spun for him in the moment of his birth. Resemblance none In figure or in lineaments I bear To the immortal tenants of the skies, But to the sons of earth; if ye have known A man afflicted with a weight of woe Peculiar, let me be with him compared; Woes even passing his could I relate, And all inflicted on me by the Gods.

When, at length, All had libation made, and were sufficed, Departing to his house, each sought repose. Thus then Ulysses, wary Chief, replied. So spake Ulysses, to whom thus the King. I bear not, stranger! Jupiter himself forbid! Eternal Father! Hence to thy rest. I speak 30 The dictates of my mind, therefore attend. Thus I enjoin the crew; but as for those Of sceptred rank, I bid them all alike To my own board, that here we may regale The stranger nobly, and let none refuse.

We have regaled sufficient, and the harp Heard to satiety, companion sweet And seasonable of the festive hour. They gave the race its limits. Nor know I hardships in the world so sure To break the strongest down, as those by sea. Thou hast well said, Laodamas; thyself Approaching, speak to him, and call him forth.

No games have I, but many a grief, at heart, And with far other struggles worn, here sit Desirous only of conveyance home, For which both King and people I implore. Thou hast ill spoken, sir, and like a man Regardless whom he wrongs. Thy quoit disdains Fellowship with a crowd, borne far beyond. Young men, reach this, and I will quickly heave Another such, or yet a heavier quoit. He is mine host. Who combats with his friend? To call to proof of hardiment the man Who entertains him in a foreign land, Would but evince the challenger a fool, Who, so, would cripple his own interest there.

As for the rest, I none refuse, scorn none, But wish for trial of you, and to match In opposition fair my force with yours. Yet mean I no comparison of myself With men of antient times, with Hercules, Or with Oechalian Eurytus, who, both, The Gods themselves in archery defied. Meantime arose Nine arbiters, appointed to intend The whole arrangement of the public games, To smooth the circus floor, and give the ring Its compass, widening the attentive throng. With footsteps justly timed all smote at once The sacred floor; Ulysses wonder-fixt, The ceaseless play of twinkling 30 feet admired.

To bed, my fair, and let us love! Here; hither look, that ye may view a sight Ludicrous, yet too monstrous to be borne, How Venus always with dishonour loads Her cripple spouse, doating on fiery Mars! And wherefore? Whose fault is this? See where they couch together on my bed Lascivious! Yet cooler wishes will they feel, I ween, To press my bed hereafter; here to sleep Will little please them, fondly as they love. Bad works speed ill. Loose him; accept my promise; he shall pay Full recompense in presence of us all.

Then thus the limping smith far-famed replied. Lame suitor, lame security. I tell thee, Vulcan, that if Mars by flight Shun payment, I will pay, myself, the fine. To whom the glorious artist of the skies. Thou must not, canst not, shalt not be refused. Amazement-fixt I stand! Wisdom beyond the common stint I mark In this our guest; good cause in my account, For which we should present him with a pledge Of hospitality and love.

The Chiefs Are twelve, who, highest in command, controul The people, and the thirteenth Chief am I. This sword shall be his own, the blade all steel. So saying, his silver-studded sword he gave Into his grasp, and, courteous, thus began. May the Gods give thee to behold again Thy wife, and to attain thy native shore, Whence absent long, thou hast so much endured! I give him also this my golden cup Splendid, elaborate; that, while he lives What time he pours libation forth to Jove And all the Gods, he may remember me. Hail, stranger! And there the mischief stood.

He sang, how, from the horse effused, the Greeks Left their capacious ambush, and the town Made desolate. As when a woman weeps, Her husband, who hath fallen in defence Of his own city and his babes before The gates; she, sinking, folds him in her arms And, gazing on him as he pants and dies, Shrieks at the sight; meantime, the enemy Smiting her shoulders with the spear to toil Command her and to bondage far away, And her cheek fades with horror at the sound; Ulysses, so, from his moist lids let fall, The frequent tear.

So spake my hoary Sire, which let the God At his own pleasure do, or leave undone. Or hast thou at the siege of Ilium lost Father-in-law, or son-in-law? For worthy as a brother of our love The constant friend and the discrete I deem. No lovelier sight know I. Learn first my name, that even in this land Remote I may be known, and that escaped From all adversity, I may requite Hereafter, this your hospitable care 20 At my own home, however distant hence.

So much our parents and our native soil Attract us most, even although our lot Be fair and plenteous in a foreign land. But come—my painful voyage, such as Jove Gave me from Ilium, I will now relate. Then, by the decree of Jove, Misfortune found us. No councils they convene, no laws contrive, But in deep caverns dwell, found on the heads Of lofty mountains, judging each supreme His wife and children, heedless of the rest. In front of the Cyclopean haven lies A level island, not adjoining close Their land, nor yet remote, woody and rude.

Thence looking forth toward the neighbour-land Where dwell the Cyclops, rising smoke we saw, And voices heard, their own, and of their flocks. Companions of my course! Here dwelt a giant vast, who far remote His flocks fed solitary, converse none Desiring, sullen, savage, and unjust.

Me then my friends first importuned to take A portion of his cheeses, then to drive Forth from the sheep-cotes to the rapid bark His kids and lambs, and plow the brine again. Charged he came With dry wood bundled, an enormous load Fuel by which to sup. That weight Not all the oxen from its place had moved Of twenty and two wains; with such a rock Immense his den he closed.

Illustrious lord! Remote or nigh? These, piece-meal hewn, for supper he prepared, And, like a mountain-lion, neither flesh Nor entrails left, nor yet their marrowy bones. We, viewing that tremendous sight, upraised Our hands to Jove, all hope and courage lost. Me, then, my courage prompted to approach The monster with my sword drawn from the sheath, And to transfix him where the vitals wrap The liver; but maturer thoughts forbad.

Then, hissing them along, he drove his flocks Toward the mountain, and me left, the while, Deep ruminating how I best might take Vengeance, and by the aid of Pallas win Deathless renown. Beside the sheep-cote lay a massy club Hewn by the Cyclops from an olive stock, Green, but which dried, should serve him for a staff. And now I bade my people cast the lot Who of us all should take the pointed brand, And grind it in his eye when next he slept. Taste and learn What precious liquor our lost vessel bore.

But, ah, thy rage Is insupportable! Who, thinkest thou, of all mankind, henceforth Will visit thee , guilty of such excess? Give me again, and spare not. Tell me, too, Thy name, incontinent, that I may make Requital, gratifying also thee With somewhat to thy taste. He ended, and received a second draught, Like measure. Thrice I bore it to his hand, And, foolish, thrice he drank. Give me, in return, The promised boon, some hospitable pledge.

So I; to whom he, savage, thus replied. Be that thy boon. But when that stake of olive-wood, though green, Should soon have flamed, for it was glowing hot, I bore it to his side. He, plucking forth the spike From his burnt socket, mad with anguish, cast The implement all bloody far away. What grievous hurt hath caused thee, Polypheme!

Thus yelling to alarm the peaceful ear Of night, and break our slumbers? Oh, friends! I die! I had deceived them all. The rams well-thriven were, Thick-fleeced, full-sized, with wool of sable hue. These, silently, with osier twigs on which The Cyclops, hideous monster, slept, I bound, Three in one leash; the intermediate rams Bore each a man, whom the exterior two Preserved, concealing him on either side.


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So saying, he left him to pursue the flock. Therefore the Gods have well requited thee. I seizing, quick, our longest pole on board, Back thrust her from the coast and by a nod In silence given, bade my companions ply Strenuous their oars, that so we might escape. Ah, rash Ulysses! Come hither, O my guest! Return, Ulysses! I would that of thy life and soul amerced, I could as sure dismiss thee down to Hell, As none shall heal thine eye—not even He.

The ocean at the plunge Of such a weight, high on its refluent flood Tumultuous, heaved the bark well nigh to land. A brazen wall impregnable on all sides Girds it, and smooth its rocky coast ascends. His children, in his own fair palace born, Are twelve; six daughters, and six blooming sons. I told him all. Order vain, alas! So fatal proved the folly of my friends. But come—be quick—search we the bag, and learn What stores of gold and silver it contains. So he, whose mischievous advice prevailed. So they—to whom, heart-broken, I replied.

Hence—be gone— Leave this our isle, thou most obnoxious wretch Of all mankind. I should, myself, transgress, Receiving here, and giving conduct hence To one detested by the Gods as thou. The sleepless there might double wages earn, Attending, now, the herds, now, tending sheep, For the night-pastures, and the pastures grazed By day, close border, both, the city-walls. Departing, they an even track pursued Made by the waggons bringing timber down From the high mountains to the town below. With headlong terrour the surviving two Fled to the ships. Long time I mused, But chose at last, as my discreter course, To seek the sea-beach and my bark again, And, when my crew had eaten, to dispatch Before me, others, who should first enquire.

Him issuing from his haunt, Sheer through the back beneath his middle spine, I wounded, and the lance sprang forth beyond.

Moaning he fell, and in the dust expired. My friends! Behold a feast! At length, their eyes gratified to the full With that glad spectacle, they laved their hands, And preparation made of noble cheer. This done, we cast The lots into the helmet, and at once Forth sprang the lot of bold Eurylochus. They, terrified, that troop Of savage monsters horrible beheld. Thus then Polites, Prince of men, the friend Highest in my esteem, the rest bespake.

Ye hear the voice, comrades, of one who weaves An ample web within, and at her task So sweetly chaunts that all the marble floor Re-echoes; human be she or divine I doubt, but let us call, that we may learn. She gave them, and they drank,— When, smiting each with her enchanting wand, She shut them in her sties. In head, in voice, In body, and in bristles they became All swine, yet intellected as before, And at her hand were dieted alone With acorns, chestnuts, and the cornel-fruit, Food grateful ever to the grovelling swine. Me boding terrours occupied.

At length, When, gazing on him, all had oft enquired, He thus rehearsed to us the dreadful change. Within, some Goddess or some woman wove An ample web, carolling sweet the while. My King! Haste—fly we swift With these, for we, at least, may yet escape. So saying, I left the galley and the shore. Thy people—they within the walls Are shut of Circe, where as swine close-pent She keeps them. Comest thou to set them free? Yet hearken—I will disappoint her wiles, And will preserve thee.

I reveal to thee the cruel arts Of Circe; learn them. Hear still what I advise. Decline not thou Her love, that she may both release thy friends, And may with kindness entertain thyself. There wallow with thy friends. Come then—I know thee well. Sheath again Thy sword, and let us, on my bed reclined, Mutual embrace, that we may trust thenceforth Each other, without jealousy or fear. The Goddess spake, to whom I thus replied. No—trust me—never will I share thy bed Till first, O Goddess, thou consent to swear The dread all-binding oath, that other harm Against myself thou wilt imagine none.

I spake. She swearing as I bade, renounced All evil purpose, and her solemn oath Concluded I ascended, next, her bed Magnificent. Meantime, four graceful nymphs Attended on the service of the house, Her menials, from the fountains sprung and groves, And from the sacred streams that seek the sea. Of these, one cast fine linen on the thrones, Which, next, with purple arras rich she spread; Another placed before the gorgeous seats Bright tables, and set on baskets of gold.

Why sits Ulysses like the Dumb, dark thoughts His only food? How can I eat? If then thy wish That I should eat and drink be true, produce My captive people; let us meet again. They knew me, and with grasp affectionate Hung on my hand. Even the awful Goddess felt, herself, Compassion, and, approaching me, began. Hence to the shore, and to thy gallant bark; First, hale her safe aground, then, hiding all Your arms and treasures in the caverns, come Thyself again, and hither lead thy friends. Noble Ulysses! Hale we our vessel first ashore, and hide In caverns all our treasures and our arms, Then, hasting hence, follow me, and ere long Ye shall behold your friends, beneath the roof Of Circe banqueting and drinking wine Abundant, for no dearth attends them there.

Provoke ye not each other, now, to tears. O Circe! My own desires, at length, Tend homeward vehement, and the desires No less of all my friends, who with complaints Unheard by thee, wear my sad heart away. But when, with tears and rolling to and fro Satiate, I felt relief, thus I replied. Brave Laertiades! There, into Acheron runs not alone Dread Pyriphlegethon, but Cocytus loud, From Styx derived; there also stands a rock, At whose broad base the roaring rivers meet. There, thrusting, as I bid, thy bark ashore, O Hero!

Then, glorious Chief! Then, ranging the wide palace, I aroused My followers, standing at the side of each— Up! Yet even thence I brought not all my crew. There was a youth, Youngest of all my train, Elpenor; one Not much in estimation for desert In arms, nor prompt in understanding more, Who overcharged with wine, and covetous Of cooler air, high on the palace-roof Of Circe slept, apart from all the rest. Then, thus to my assembling friends I spake. I ended, and the hearts of all alike Felt consternation; on the earth they sat Disconsolate, and plucking each his hair, Yet profit none of all their sorrow found.

But while we sought my galley on the beach With tepid tears bedewing, as we went, Our cheeks, meantime the Goddess to the shore Descending, bound within the bark a ram And sable ewe, passing us unperceived. For who hath eyes that can discern a God Going or coming, if he shun the view? So I, to whom with tears he thus replied. But now, by those whom thou hast left at home, By thy Penelope, and by thy fire, The gentle nourisher of thy infant growth, And by thy only son Telemachus I make my suit to thee.

Poor youth! I will perform thy whole desire. The soul of my departed mother, next, Of Anticleia came, daughter of brave Autolycus; whom, when I sought the shores Of Ilium, I had living left at home. Then came the spirit of the Theban seer Himself, his golden sceptre in his hand, Who knew me, and, enquiring, thus began.

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Why, hapless Chief! So shalt thou die in peace a gentle death, Remote from Ocean; it shall find thee late, In soft serenity of age, the Chief Of a blest people. But tell me, Seer! And truly. So I, to whom Tiresias quick replied. The course is easy. Learn it, taught by me.

Difficult it is For living man to view the realms of death. Broad rivers roll, and awful floods between, But chief, the Ocean, which to pass on foot, Or without ship, impossible is found. But speak, my mother, and the truth alone; What stroke of fate slew thee? The mind and purpose of my wedded wife Declare thou also.

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Dwells she with our son Faithful to my domestic interests, Or is she wedded to some Chief of Greece? Not so; she faithful still and patient dwells Thy roof beneath; but all her days and nights Devoting sad to anguish and to tears. Hath Proserpine, alas! Then, instant, thus the venerable form. Ah, son! For they nor muscle have, nor flesh, nor bone; All those the spirit from the body once Divorced the violence of fire consumes, And, like a dream, the soul flies swift away.

But haste thou back to light, and, taught thyself These sacred truths, hereafter teach thy spouse. Rejoice in this my love, and when the year Shall tend to consummation of its course, Thou shalt produce illustrious twins, for love Immortal never is unfruitful love. Be silent. Name it not. For I am Neptune, Shaker of the shores. So saying, he plunged into the billowy Deep. So stood the will of Jove. But all the wives of Heroes whom I saw, And all their daughters can I not relate; Night, first, would fail; and even now the hour Calls me to rest either on board my bark, Or here; meantime, I in yourselves confide, And in the Gods to shape my conduct home.

Your prudent Queen, my friends, speaks not beside Her proper scope, but as beseems her well. I ratify the word. Then let the guest, though anxious to depart, Wait till the morrow, that I may complete The whole donation. Then thus Ulysses, ever-wise, replied. What hand inflicted the all-numbing stroke Of death on thee? I ceased, when Agamemnon thus replied.

Blood floated all the pavement. In the city and in life itself we are constantly coming across works and persons that go unnoticed, not so much because of their low profiles but because of their prudent subordination to an urban or institutional context. It is an attitude that calls for elegance in life and professional skill: no one said it would be easy to fly under the radar.

Photograph: Klemens Ortmeyer. Modern architecture and the automobile were born at the same time, and they may well disappear together. Both shaped the 20 th century, and both are to a fair extent responsible for the consumption of fossil fuels that has given rise to the insomniac territory of an accelerated time. Petroleum nourishes motors, but also buildings and works, and in the end our model of a city is rendered unsustainable as much by energy use in transport as it is by energy use in construction.

Of course urban development of the disperse kind based on the automobile is the main link between architecture and energy; but buildings, too, require the consumption of non-renewable resources, not only in their construction but also in their maintenance, and this puts architects in the same frame of mind as manufacturers of vehicles.

Although on their own they can do little to modify territorial models, they can do much to construct buildings and fabricate automobiles that consume less energy, a beneficial resolution that appears prominently in the press releases of professional associations and the commercials of car brands. But while architects' congresses and motor trade fairs preach on sustainability, ecological construction, and hybrid vehicles, the building and automobile sectors celebrate their old friendship with a handful of spectacular constructions where intentions to make amends are subordinated to a desire to surprise, to the pedagogy of emotion, and to the calculation of impact.

In his famous book-manifesto of , Toward a New Architecture , Le Corbusier compared the evolution of Greek temples to that of automobiles. Such fascination with the mechanic world made him the main propagandist both of the city at the service of traffic and of architecture inspired by the procedures of industry: two vectors of innovation underlying his titanic and fortunately never carried out Voisin Plan for Paris, named after the car manufacturer Gabriel Voisin, as it does the significantly named Maison Citroan. In any case Le Corbusier's flirtations with the automobile, just like Melnikov's alluring Parisian garage projects of the same years, marked a publicity romance of undeniable efficacy for both parts, one that lives on to our days.

Today, the latest car models are routinely advertised against a background of new architecture, as are high-fashion collections, and in turn the major manufacturers of automobiles take pains to complement their interminable production hangars with symbolic gestures entrusted to architectural celebrities, and sometimes they turn to this Formula 1 of the profession even for their research and communication premises. The Anglo-Iraqi's works for German brands both use self-compactable concrete, a technique without which we could not possibly imagine their oneiric forms being forged. Otherwise they are almost diametrically complementary.

In the BMW factory in Leipzig, Hadid puts the offices, the laboratories, and the canteen in a Piranesian hank of galleries and platforms which are overflown by ribbons that silently drag the bodyworks of the cars, and which tangle up tightly between three huge production hangars, constructing the piece like a hinge that also serves as an entrance and a showroom for the firm, complete with a souvenir shop.

Beside Volkswagen's grand factory in Wolfsburg, the formidable Science Center is a sculptural free-standing volume that lifts up on pachyderm legs a refined landscape of warped concrete.

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This landscape serves as a support for the experiment stations that are randomly placed on it and that work to spread scientific knowledge while entertaining in the manner of an amusement park. Also meant for exhibition purposes, and also free-standing and sculptural, is the museum created for Mercedes-Benz in Stuttgart by the UN Studio of Ben van Berkel, whose passion for the Moebius Strip comes across here through a clover of warped leaves that is transformed into a spiral ramp that is vaguely evocative of Wright's Guggenheim, but interpreted with spaces that flow in a double helix so that the spectator sliding down from above threads the history of the automobile with that of the company itself.

More sober are the spaces conceived for research and development, such as the exquisite McLaren Technological Center built by Norman Foster in Woking, a plate of glass and steel whose sinuous outline surrounds an artificial lake so as to trace a perfect circle in the bucolic context of the English countryside; or the Research Center of Ferrari, raised by Massimiliano Fuksas in Maranello with three pieces of extreme horizontality and lightness that are piled up weightlessly in the vicinity of the factory.

In contrast, the Communication Center of Renault reuses the industrial sheds built by Claude Vasconi in the eighties — the last remains of the huge plant at Boulogne-Billancourt, in the outskirts of Paris, before production was altogether decentralized — and fits them out to accommodate the company's creative advertising staff and sales machinery. And the municipality of the province of Madrid, in turn, is building a spectacular Museum of the Automotive.

The result was aesthetically mediocre and sociologically out of bounds — a meter house for a country that invented the capsule-hotel. But it is also a revealing example of a by now centenary romance between modern architecture and the automobile: a sexy and fertile relationship that in our times is conceivable only if placed at the service of environmental responsibility.

The annual appointment of Arco prompts to comment on the incestuous relationship between architecture and art in times controlled by celebrity, spectacle, media and commerce; the note is illustrated with the last American museum, built by the Genoese Renzo Piano, one of the most influential architects in the field of art according to the Art Review. The International Tourism Fair describes the consumerization of geography, referring to art as entertainment and as an itinerant engine of leisure deranged by a symbolic bulimia, while the International Security Fair delimits the topography of fear, tying up with art as a postmodern religion and a source of the timelessness and sacredness that protects us against contemporary transience and uncertainty.

IFEMA thinks for us. Such an accumulation of anniversaries invites one to contemplate this motley fair in the at once dazzling and dolorous light of another citizen of felix Austria , the late Thomas Bernhard, who made his country and art the main targets of his critical pessimism. Paradoxically, this sculptural architecture has been pushed to the limbo of midcult by the same people who put it on top, and today the Californian shares with our very own Santiago Calatrava that vast, vague space which — with the permission of Ratzinger and the International Theological Commission — is inhabited by those who, unworthy of the paradise of criticism, neither deserve the tortures of hell, those whose popular success makes a forced stay in purgatory unlikely.

In the limbo of opinion and the heaven of masses, these artist-architects perfectly illustrate the solvent nature of celebrity. Frank Gehry is the star of a documentary filmed by Sydney Pollack, and as apprentice in his studio he has taken in someone like Brad Pitt, who, incidentally, has by now opened his own design office and will for a start be decorating the hotel he is building in Las Vegas with George Clooney. The magazine Art Review has published a list of people it considers most influential in the art world.

Rem Koolhaas and Zaha Hadid — Pritzker Prize winners in and , respectively, and formerly master and disciple in the London crucible that the Architectural Association is — made number 14 and number 20 in the previous list, but now drop to 49 and In one case it may be evidence of fascination with the relentless material and formal explorations of the Basel partners, a verification of their solid ties to the art scene, which often include collaborations with prominent members of it, and admiration for their museum projects, most recently the New de Young Museum in San Francisco, a piece of exquisite make with copper lining perforated by lights and shadows, one that in time will dissolve in the park it is located in.

In the other case it could be acknowledgment of the impeccable efficiency and accurate elegance of the Genoese master, no doubt the most coveted in the demanding universe of patrons, artists, and curators who value as frames for art the refined and luminous silence of his works, effortlessly proven in the most recent of them, the extension of the High Museum in Atlanta, a series of immaculate volumes clad in white aluminum and crowned with a tight forest of skylights rendered with his characteristic material inventiveness.

After this concert of duets, a distracted walk through the ARCO pavilions can suggest that the essential works of our times exist outside this mobile, portable fair, a mix of the commercial center and the academic salon of conventional reputation. Whether because we do not know where its spirit blows, or because the scale of the works overflows this ephemeral city of plaster and celebrities, beyond the metal architectures, perforated volcanoes, or concrete star fields, ARCO is a plateau for a motley audience, solitude inhabited by multitudes, where every celebrity has a spotlight, just as every icon in the stifling penumbra of an orthodox church has an oil lamp burning before it.

December The Kuwait meeting introduces a summary of , which aside from taking stock of events and catastrophes, refers to the increasingly superficial nature of architecture, consumed by the media with a voyeuristic appetite for sensations, and each time more incapable of intervening in the deepest strata of the economy or the technology where the political and social changes brew.

We do not expect fog in the desert. Nevertheless, we western critics and our counterparts of the Muslim world who have been summoned together in Kuwait by the Aga Khan Foundation are met by a mist that is denser than the mythical British split-pea soup, a phenomenon so unusual as to make the front page of Arab Times, the emirate's English-language daily, blurring the silhouette of the city's architectural icon, the Kuwait Towers, a construction of water tanks that serves as well as a lookout and a restaurant. While dining in one of the towers with Paula Al Sabah, married to a son of the emir — sadly disappeared a few weeks later —, a woman exquisitely educated in the United States like all other members of the tribal elite that runs the country, it occurs to me that the cloud inside which we are conversing is a perfect metaphor for the soft, cottony blindness of the world's privileges.

After all, as we savor desserts flown in that same morning from a Parisian patisserie, we are floating many meters above the dunes that hide the lake of petroleum on whose viscous darkness rests the prosperity of the Gulf, but also ours. The Kuwaitis follow the news of Saddam Hussein's trial with indifference. Gone, almost entirely, are the marks of the invasion that in provoked the first Gulf War — with unforeseen architectural consequences in Spain, such as the provisional paralysis in Madrid of the twin towers of the Kuwait Investment Office KIO , after the group's plundering by Javier de la Rosa and Fahad Al Sabah, or the celebration of victory over Iraq through the lyrical Kuwaiti Pavilion at Expo '92 in Seville, which Santiago Calatrava designed as an arch of triumph of moving palm trees.

And one hardly remembers that the geopolitical balance of the planet still rests on this fragile hinge where energy reserves cross with the clash of civilizations. These pre-Christmas weeks, passenger planes fly fearlessly over a shaken, pre-electoral Iraq, and in Kuwait people worry more about traffic jams in the highways than about metal detector arches at the entrances to hotels or the routinary checking of undersides and trunks of vehicles.

The parliament building designed by Utzon, with its huge canvases of concrete hanging from the sculptural portico, has been entirely restored from the damages it suffered during the occupation, and continues to be the country's most beautiful building, while new skyscrapers built in more corporate styles are sprouting left and right, alongside shopping centers with Californian airs and incomparable luxuries.

If we go by the real estate fair that accompanies an ongoing congress of local engineers, we cannot help thinking that Kuwait is preparing to be a second Dubai — the Gulf emirate currently second only to Shanghai in number of cranes. Contemplated from this Persian or Arabian Gulf on whose fortune our own so much depends, the year's architectural events fade in the blue fog of distance and in the indifference of chance.

The cities of the year were Aichi, site of a International Exposition of environmental sustainability themes that accommodated a much praised Spanish Pavilion, a ceramic and chromatic work of Alejandro Zaera and Farshid Moussavi; Istanbul, venue of a congress of the International Union of Architects that awarded its triennial medal to the Japanese Tadao Ando; and London, elected host of the Olympic Games of , beating Paris, Madrid, New York, and Moscow, the day before being the target of a chain of terrorist attacks.

Incidentally, this was one of the issues addressed at the Kuwait gathering, and this because it affects that essential factor of security and life without which it is obscene to be lavish in aesthetic considerations, considerations which are perhaps reasonably limited to the lazaret of newspapers' culture supplements, which cannot compete with the juicy polemics of the local news section, the exotic proposals of the travel pages, or the sophisticated lifestyle coverage of the Sunday magazines, not to mention the endless advertising of the real estate sections.

After all, it is reasonable to think that the urbanistic mutations of one's own city, the architectural glamor of tourist destinations, or domestic decoration — not to mention the buying of a dwelling, a rite of passage that marks one's stepping from the freedom of youth to the mortgaged chains of maturity — are all eons more interesting than the often lewd ramblings about the physical body of architecture and its fleeting shadows, an activity of idlers like the critics gathered together in the unexpected mists of the Gulf.

Examples are given: B large breasts ; G large, voluptuous bouncing breasts ; VG large, voluptuous bouncing breasts with hard nipples ; EG large, voluptuous bouncing breasts with hard nipples covered with glistening sweat and bite marks. An equivalent architectural scale to prevent critical pornography could go as follows: B large volumes ; G large, undulating and agitated volumes ; VG large, undulating and agitated volumes clad with titanium : EG large, undulating and agitated volumes clad with titanium, with a moist gloss and trembling texture. Such a scale could serve as a guide for architectural critics lost in the fog of exclusive sensuality while the dark pulse of the world beats beneath the sand.

The global market of signature architects is experiencing an inflationary growth that is devaluating the publicity value of spectacular works. Overkill of budgets and symbols combine with the re-emergence of protectionism to trace a panorama of withdrawal that nevertheless has yet to affect the smug banquet of the media. There is more vinegar than wine in celebrity architecture. Borrowing Ratzinger's evangelical metaphors, the European city is a vineyard devastated by wild boars, a construction cultivated and gradually being destroyed by economic and mediatic forces that have imposed their animal appetite on the plant-like unhurriedness of urban continuity, offering the compensatory shine of signature architectures as orientational or identity-defining placebos in the mutating territory of globalization.

But the proliferation of these landmarks and icons erodes their curative fiction and makes the publicity sonority of their trills fade out in the din of the times, their promesse de bonheur going up in smoke. Ortega deplored the fact that the parliamentary debates of his time were waged between wild boars and tenors, and today's urban dialogues may likewise be a battle between money that assaults and artists who sing, even as the wine of their voices, turned vinegar, no longer makes us drunk.

Going back to Benedictine enological theology, having passed the vineyard of wild pigs, symbolic architectures are nowadays elaborated with grapes of the jungle, which produce more hangover than euphoria. Negative reaction to emblematic works is due not so much to their traditional role of propagandists of power, nor to their contemporary function as movers of the tourist industry. It is due to their uncontrolled proliferation, with the inevitable effect of diluting uniqueness and diminishing quality, when star-architects cease to be able to keep the excellence bar at high level.

What else happens in contemporary art museums when the formulaic repetition of collections — presided over in succession by a Moore, a Chillida, or a Turrell near the entrance — deteriorates both the specific profile of the institutions and the generic value of the works, which are produced under the pressure of an insomniac market. However petty some of these demands may be, they are in tune with the emotional climate of a Europe that is unable to compete with Asia, that is demographically aged, and that through recent constitutional referendums has expressed fear over enlargement toward the East — the famous Polish plumber of the French consultation — or the admittance of Turkey — with the impact of the Islamist murder of Theo van Gogh hovering over Dutch ballots.

They also vibrate in resonance with a general sentiment of withdrawal, the result of historic insecurity generated by globalization, which has given rise to a return to more immediate fidelities to village and tribe; and a revival of regional identities that take on a new cultural and political protagonism. But their basic fuel are widespread irritation at the excesses of the star system, a general exhaustion with vedettes who do not always deliver the quality expected of them, and the evidence that local professionals often benefit from the comparison.

This is not exactly the case of the authors of the two manifestos mentioned above: Britain's young architects, besides scorning foreigners, have to contend with the generation of the two lords of high-tech, Foster and Rogers, whose merits cannot be compared with those of their detractors; and it has been some time now since the Italian veterans last built any buildings that can be compared to those of the international stars they are trying to exclude in their country.

The protectionist tide arrives in Spain toned down by the feeble chauvinism of a country whose self-esteem was injured by the prolonged isolation imposed upon it by the Franco regime, and whose opening to the rest of the world has always been associated with modernity and liberty. But it also arrives here driven by the perception of an unequal exchange despite wide international recognition, we import more architectures than we export , by the building of client networks in territories of strong identity, and by a lukewarm disappointment with the latest crop of signature architectures, which is not always at a par with the generosity of their budgets and the reputation of their authors.

In the exhibition on Spain 's new architecture that opens in February in New York 's Museum of Modern Art , an extraordinary tribute to the excellence of our current construction, nearly a third of the works are by foreign architects. This shows both the breadth of the outlook of Spanish institutions which make up the greater part of the clientele , and the fascination that figures of the international scene feel for a country where they have not always been able to work in the best conditions, whether because of the traditional programmatic indefiniteness of the public client or because of the no less frequent problem of budget imprecision, but where they have enjoyed a degree of media popularity and political deference that is much less common in other places.

However much we censure the formal or economic extravagances of signature works, we must remember that architects try to give more than they have to, offering society more than society asks of them, and only those who have renounced such self-demanding integrity that is the pillar of professionalism can be sequestered by the censurable smugness of one who gives less than his prestige promises.


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Sometimes there are accidents, as in the Scottish Parliament, a work of dramatic beauty that represents democracy with unexpected forms, where the near-simultaneous passing away of the architect and the politician who acted as his client triggered a budgetary loss of control that gave rise to an investigation of the very institution, without this financial derailment preventing Enric Miralles from posthumously winning the Stirling, the highest distinction awarded a building by the collective of British architects. But no major project is immune from journalistic polemic and political scandal, and as much the Sydney Opera House as the Pompidou Center or the Guggenheim-Bilbao Museum were capolavori received with the same din that now surrounds the City of Arts and Sciences of Valencia or the City of Culture of Galicia, two titanic works that may likewise one day be their authors' masterworks, even if today we see only the excess of its scale with a guilty conscience that makes wine go sour.

If signature architectures ought to tone down, surely it is because we have in atonement decided to build fewer buildings and more city. For only from the perspective of the physical and temporal continuity of the urban realm can we hope to channel turbulent currents and transform the material world, and only from the angle of prioritizing what is collective can we attempt to ride out the historic tempests that shake our social universe.

But it will not be because a generation on the rise or in decline clamors for protectionist measures against foreign stars, or because the great economic agents of the building sector prefer to deal with meeker professionals. High competition in architecture is a demanding sector, and architects who do not live up to expectations in competitions and commissions suffer an immediate erosion of their reputations in the professional or academic environment that later transfers to the public at large and their clientele.

It is in this lag that most pathologies proliferate, if we do not classify as such all the madness that every generation builds with the unanimous conviction that it has found the philosopher's stone, when often its works are but the product of aesthetic or intellectual fashions that disappear as suddenly as they came.

Photograph: Mark Darley. I am a suspect. In the course of this fleeting American week I have twice received the four S's that lead to a particularly rigorous check. From New York to San Francisco, chance or the slightest possibility of danger marks travel documents with the ominous SSSS that only a handful of bloggers claim to know how to decipher, and the passenger meekly surrenders himself to a humiliating scrutiny of clothes and luggage in search of signs of explosives or drugs, and an interminable examination and frisking where jokes can be a ground for a penal process.

Compared to the unanimous and amiable supervision of immigration agents, the arbitrary opacity of the Homeland Security reveals the extent of the territories that freedom is ceding to fear. It is my third visit to the United States in a year, and I embark on each trip with increased reluctance. Monday in L. On Sunday Eric Owen Moss showed me around Culver City, a fractured suburban utopia of pragmatic sculptural sheds, and I also visited the Prada store on Rodeo Drive, a Rem Koolhaas work that is much less publicized than its sister in New York City's Soho, but that is is better resolved because of the way its routes tangle up with the large staggered wave, more sensual because of the spongy or translucent quality of its exact materials, and more seductive thanks to the maze of galleries that form subterranean shop windows beneath the sidewalks.

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This first working day of the week I once again pass through Bunker Hill, a hub of civic life regenerated by cultural buildings and the conversion of offices into residential lofts, but also besieged by a somber army of 80, homeless people who camp along the edges, drawn to California's benign climate by the closing of psychiatric institutions and the break-up of families.

Its raised picturesque garden and theatrical entrance spill onto the street, faking an urbanity that is ironically subverted by the interior cascade of stairs channelling the flow of spectators toward the innumerable parking basements. Just a block away, Rafael Moneo's fortress of a cathedral defines its perimeter. The church is marked by the categorical bell tower and it the herringbone pattern of the ceilings and the concrete cross over the alabaster are delicate, but there is something wrong about the access, the building looks drowned from the bordering freeway, and the interior has been disfigured by the proliferation of deplorable imagery, a testimony of the dull sensibility of Cardinal Mahoney, to whom I suppose we must also attribute the atrocious funerary crypt that has Gregory Peck as most famous tenant.

My afternoon conference takes place in the SCI-Arc shed, a factory space that brings together professors who have gone from manufactured deconstruction to computerized organicism with students all but exhausted from the formal exacerbation of this exuberant expressionism that nourishes both prosperity and the climate. When I came to speak at Berkeley some years ago, I took advantage of the opportunity to verify for myself both the frustration produced by the routinary buildings of Mario Botta and Fumihiko Maki in the urban center's cultural core, and the amazement elicited by the Dominus winery of the Swiss partners in the Napa Valley, an at once brutal and exquisite prism of basalt gabions.

Now, after the controversy triggered by the project for the museum, which replaces an early 20 th -century building in Golden Gate Park that was damaged by the earthquake, it is a joy to find that the building housing the centenary institution is at a par with its artistic-ethnographic collections, and that its composition of pieces interwoven to connect exhibition narratives through deep chinks of light and vegetation in the interior, or its skin of copper that will turn green in time and which is embossed and perforated with a pixelled interpretation of the foliage, will end up convincing the most reticent.

Enriched by ex profeso works as enigmatic as Goldsworthy's lyrical fissure or Richter's micro-photographed strontium, and crowned with a meter look-out tower that twists slightly to align with the urban grid, the New De Young is the laconic icon that San Francisco lacked all these years, a luminous meeting place where the city comes together and can be contemplated. Wednesday in Vancouver revolves around the overwhelming landscapes of the Canadian Pacific, which makes the visitor shudder from the moment he flies over the islands of the gulf, shrouded in the autumn mist.

In the intermittent rain I discover the tranquil urbanity of an orderly and friendly city whose population is one-third Asian and whose economy until recently centered around fishing, mining, and wood. Here it is a must to visit the most promising among studios on the rise, and John Patkau leads us to his latest house, a refined residence for a young Chinese millionaire, built in concrete on the water's edge, that features a suspended swimming pool, a hermetic music room for the jam sessions of his rock group, and a bedside photograph that in lieu of a family shows a lineup of his seven luxury cars, for which the garage allows for vertical storage.

But the leading local architect is the veteran Arthur Erickson, and after visiting his capolavoro, the monumental and tectonic Anthropology Museum, it is my good fortune to get to lecture in an auditorium that he designed, and that clings to words and movement like a used glove. Thursday in Seattle has as its inevitable target Rem Koolhaas' Public Lbrary, a huge carved crystal whose Stealth aesthetic has had a curiously polemic-free reception, however much the young accuse the Dutch architect of having attained mastery with a faceted sculpture that contradicts his most extreme postulates, and that in any case orchestrates a polyhedric program with strategic intelligence and material elegance.

Largely occupied by humble users, the titles on loan that are shown in real time form an artistic installation that play up its social character. More melancholic was the visit to Frank Gehry's Experience Music Project, a formless amalgam of chaotic iridescent bulges that not even the monorail penetrating it or the fairground proximity of roller coaster redeems, and whose capricious confusion is all the more evident when seen from the top of the Space Needle, the slender observatory that was built for the World's Fair.

The city of Jimi Hendrix is also the city of Steven Holl, but its university chapel would be a disappointment to most: balanced in its implantation and exact in its details, the trivial scenography of the interior, with its low colored lights trying to create a spiritual atmosphere, are decidedly affected and twee, in unfavorable contrast to the constructive pedagogy of the tilt-up walls.

Despite the instantaneous and oceanic information available on-line, architects still buy tickets to attend a conference, and this persistence of physical presence does not fail to surprise me. All have lauded the way the new halls thread their routes with the old building of Edward Larrabee Barnes, the skill with which the center relates to the avenue and the placid park behind, or the inventiveness of the materials, which include a cladding of aluminum panels that are punched to give them the look of creased paper.

But not everyone has understood the random perforations of the outer skin, or the use, in the theater and the openings of the halls, of a decorative pattern that takes inspiration from the sensuality of lace lingerie. Nevertheless it is hard to be objective when touring the place in the warm company of its director, Kathy Halbreich, a New Yorker who has kept high the reputation of a museum that is exemplary for its integrity and consistency.

The scale of the Twin Cities also gives me time to experience the unique system of raised corridors that connects all of downtown Minneapolis in a manner out of the reach of its tough winter, explore the precedents of the Guggenheim-Bilbao in Gehry's efficient and stunning Weisman Museum, and lament the clamorous sign of alarm that hovers over Jean Nouvel's career on account of his Guthrie Theater, a colossal work on the banks of the Misssissippi that is his first American job but where every decision and every detail, from the clonal hall to the gymnastic projection over the river, shows a loss of control that does no justice to the institution nor to the architect's track record.

Saturday has me flying back home via Chicago. I am no longer under suspicion. Photograph: Calatrava studio. Apocalytic and totemic in the face of mass urbanity: summing up the early Umberto Eco, such could be the dilemma of today's architects. If the semiologist of our pop youth distinguished between the apocalyptics who fear mass culture and the integrated who submit to it, attitudes toward the contemporary city can also be polarized between those who judge the boundless urbanization of territories as an ecological and social tragedy, and those who join in on the real estate tide by raising signs of identity or force.

The quarter of a million victims of the Boxing Day tsunami drew attention to the physical fragility of modern suburbanity with devastating emotional violence, and the hurricanes that whipped Louisiana and Texas — from the foretold destruction of New Orleans to the chaotic evacuation of Houston — have likewise shaken the smug self-confidence of the United States with frustration and panic, nourishing millenarian vertigos and mute apocalypses.

In such a panorama of risk and uncertainty — accentuated by the natural calamities and the specter of climatic change, but previously opened in history and memory by and its echoes, from Madrid's M to London's 7-J — our stars of architecture are either crowning or commencing urban totems that turn their backs on the beat of the world, and we are at a loss how to take them, whether as arrogant icons of masculine affirmation in the face of the tribulations of the times, or as vertical exorcisms pretending to keep vigil over the defenseless slumber of the city besieged by shadows.

The sequel, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed , addresses the other side of the coin, the reasons for the failure of some societies of the past, from the inhabitants of Easter Island to the Vikings of Greenland, which serve as an example and a warning for contemporary societies like China, the United States, or Australia whose current development shows the same features that led to the sinking of the former. Among these factors, the determinant for Diamond is the social response to environmental problems, and his persuasive description of the gradual collapse of collective life after the devastation of a fragile habitat — a consequence of social decisions that are more deliberate than inevitable — has produced the expectable impact on the anguished post-tsunami conscience, and one will have generate an even greater one at the settling of the perception of vulnerability that Katrina and Rita have brought to the heart of a country which, caught in the mire of an impossible war, suddenly finds itself defenseless as well in the face of climatic catastrophe: a political and technical crisis that joins with apocalyptic terrorism and the unfathomable mutations produced by science in our biological nature in building for us a nightmare future.

Meanwhile, Diamond describes life in Los Angeles suburbs, protected by private police, where people drink bottled water, live on private pensions, and send their children to private schools — so that they do not much care about the deterioration of the police, water supply, social security, and public schools — and he wonders how long before the excluded begin to threaten the rich neighborhoods as in the past they attacked the palaces of Mayan kings or tore down the statues of Easter Island. No fence will keep out the poor, he says, and this is something he need not repeat to those of us who day by day see the news coming in from Melilla and Ceuta the Spanish cities in the north of Africa, frequently entered by illegal immigrants that climb the fence separating them from Morocco , from a border overwhelmed as much by assaults as by the colossal gradient of fertility and income.

In this shaken planet, the leaders of architecture blindly compete with the social leaders, the former pursuing their narcissistic careers in the same way that the latter concern themselves only with the political or economic ruses that precariously keep the feeble building of an irresponsible nomenklatura on its feet. Take for example two figures whom the media frequently tag as artists and even geniuses, and who for different reasons have been making news of late.

I don't think it's a real project. It's all a joke. Whether we like it or not, Robertina is right. The extraordinary hype showered on the architect transpires in a context where the hostile takeover bid of Gas Natural controlled by the Barcelona-based La Caixa over Endesa, one of the largest electric companies in Spain — which affects corporate headquarters and the geographic localization of power over energy — agglutinates the country's political and economic debate, a matter involving interests far more transcendental than the originality or the extravagance of a concrete shell randomly perforated with pixellated windows and capriciously colored beneath glazed blinds that sheath it like a fantasy condom.

But the great battles of territories for energy and gas — which hardly dissimulate the aesthetic fencing of the guest artists — are fought in the common field of an indomitable growth that undermines the environmental foundations of our survival. The electric sparkle of our luminous landscapes does not dissipate the dark spots of the future.

Blinded by the kilowatt, we forget Katrina and Kyoto. Architects raise illuminated totems, pretending to forget that priapism is an erectile dysfunction. At night in Sin City , its icons look like gods protecting us from the dark, but they are false idols that are impotent in the face of the catastrophe that hangs over the happy smug city. As the British historian Eileen Power wrote, the Romans, blind to what was happening to them, spoke of Roma inmortalis on the very eve of Rome 's fall.

We can't pretend to understand Japan. Anyone visiting this empire of signs empathizes with the perplexity of Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson in Sofia Coppola's film. Like them, we know that the essential is lost in translation, and that we are strayed in the labyrinths of language and custom. It is not easy to reconcile the exquisite refinement of Japanese calligraphy and gardens with the current hyperbolic keenness on western mercantilism, nor is there a way of mapping out the road that leads from haiku to manga without accepting the traumas of the Japan 's opening up to the world, from Commodore Perry to General MacArthur.

Ian Buruma, who knows the country well, believes it excessive to blame its intellectual and artistic dislocations exclusively on the violence of foreign impositions. But surely its exacerbated consumerism is as much a sign of economic modernity as it is an indication of cultural malaise.

The part of Tokyo that was the scene of the closest thing to eternal luxury was Ginza , and after a period of decline triggered by the bursting of the stock market bubble in , it still much is.