‘WHAT GOOD AM I?’: BOB DYLAN LIVE, 16 November 2013, Esch-sur-Alzette (Luxembourg)

Bob Dylan’s recent all-but-unchanging setlists, representing a new practice on his current European tour and its North American predecessor earlier this year, have raised a few eyebrows among his fan base. And so it was that tonight’s concert at the Rockhal in Esch-sur-Alzette (Luxembourg) offered a 19-song setlist 100% identical to the previous four and, barring  minor sequencing variations, to a total of 14 out of 26 so far from this tour (with nine dates to go, all in the UK).

 This phenomenon of near-static setlists has its plus and minus points. Dylan’s age is one likely factor (which may also account for the intermission introduced on this tour), and if so we must take that into consideration. It could nonetheless be argued that repeating exactly the same songs (he could give or take a variant or two, surely?) at the same venue in the same city, two or even three nights running, is not only short-changing repeat attenders but also not the best of commercial strategies. Here in Esch, at all events, there was only one show – Dylan’s second at the Rockhal, following his debut gig shared with Mark Knopfler just over two years ago – to be precise, on 21 October 2011 (see entry on this blog for 23 October 2011).

 One advantage, though, of a set-in-stone setlist is that it facilitates the reviewer’s preparation! I guessed, correctly, that Dylan would eschew the exceptionalism of the two Rome dates (6 and 7 November), and would stick with ‘Early Roman Kings’ and the rest (did he drop that song in Rome precisely because it actually has nothing to do with the Eternal City, and take his cue from there for those two all-but-transformed setlists?).  So I was able to prepare for the night, printing out and re-reading the lyrics of those ‘later’ songs from the list which – though of course I own and play the relevant albums – I admit I do not know by heart as I do ‘Desolation Row’ or ‘A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall’ (neither of which showed up in Esch). Hence if nothing else, the shows’ new-found stasis did allow me to get more deeply inside songs like ‘Scarlet Town’ or ‘Forgetful Heart’, and that can only be a gain.

Dylan ticket Esch 16 Nov 13

 The doors opened at 7 p.m, in advance for 8.30. The queue outside was enlivened by a –surprisingly good – Dylan-imitator busker who served up very passable renditions of ‘Mr Tambourine Man’ and ‘Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright’ (did he know the maestro was *not* going to perform those songs tonight, or indeed that he doesn’t do ‘Mr Tambourine Man’ at all these days ?). Once inside, I acquired the programme, which proved to be unexpectedly worth acquiring and already suggested this would be a quality evening, consisting as it did mostly of the full texts of a collection of reviews of Dylan’s later works – eulogies of ‘Time Out of Mind’, ‘Modern Times’, ‘Tempest’ and, indeed, ‘Chronicles, Volume One’. Reading those  texts could not have put me in a better frame of mind as I munched through a couple of pizza slices and awaited the Minnesotan’s curtain-call.

 From the minute Dylan and band launched into ‘Things Have Changed’, I deduced – correctly – that things had *not* changed and we would be treated to the tour’s default repertoire. That being the case, how would the audience react? This setlist includes only three songs from the 60s, two of them as encores, plus another two from the 70s; of the remaining 14 songs, none is older than 1989 and six are from the recent Tempest. Would many of the audience be familiar with Dylan’s later work, and how many were there expecting to hear ‘The Times They Are A-Changin’’, ‘Just Like a Woman’ and the rest? In the event, Dylan made no fresh concessions to the earlier work which had nonetheless been crucial in his being made a Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur in Paris just three days before, with the no doubt unwanted accolade of being an influence on France’s student revolt of May 1968. As for the audience, the crowd did show a tendency to thin out and not everyone returned after the intermission, but those who did stay – by far the majority – were attentive and appreciative, some couples danced to both upbeat and slower numbers, and those who made the effort surely did – to quote from one of tonight’s numbers – ‘have a whopping good time’.

 The fact was that the concert proved to be excellent – not diamond perfect (is Dylan ever?) – but certainly more than a few notches higher up on the quality scale than Bob’s previous (and perfectly acceptable) offering to the citizens of Esch. Dylan sang with more strength and conviction, and more audibly; the song selection was more challenging, and Dylan and band rose to the challenge; and what really made the day (or the night) were the arrangements, which displayed an imaginativeness, a denseness, a variety and, above all, a sense of drama, such as I have, frankly, rarely encountered in Bob Dylan’s work whether live or in the studio. Yes, tonight … something is happening here!

 **

 ‘Things Have Changed’ proves a strong opener. Dylan, coming on centre stage, seems a shade hesitant at the beginning, but by the second verse is well in command, and the arrangement, more complex than on the original and varying in tempo, does the song proud. The frenetic rhythms of the opener then give way to the slow, stately unfurling of a fine ‘She Belongs To Me’ – has he put this song from 1965 in second slot to stop the 60s devotees walking out early? – with Dylan relishing the half-century-old lyrics and bringing out both the song’s dignity and its humour.  Next, ‘Beyond Here Lies Nothin’’ also gets the benefit of a fuller and denser arrangement than the original, with a wonderfully archaic old-time ballroom feel. Beyond here lies … a lot more than nothing, that’s for sure! – and the atmosphere intensifies with a magnificent ‘What Good Am I ?’, with Dylan pounding out the notes on the grand piano and singing his heart out (and audibly and comprehensibly – by now it’s clear that his voice has taken a real turn for the better). The arrangement of the 1989 song is powerful and dramatic, not without a nod to Tom Jones’ impressively doom-laden version from 2010.

 And now, the first song up from Tempest, and also the one that is that album’s opening track, ‘Duquesne Whistle’. On this jaunty and defiant number – which as I read it is a deceptively light-hearted reflection on preparing for death – we now see Dylan getting right inside his new material, interpreting the song in a way that is immediately recognisable from the album but also adds further layers of sound and feeling. The country blues of ‘Duquesne’ then gives way to a country waltz, in the form of ‘Waiting For You’, this tour’s obscurity. Only available on a little-known soundtrack album, never anthologised and performed only twice before the present tour, ‘Waiting For You’ has suddenly morphed into a staple, receiving its 22nd tour outing tonight. It remains a minor song, but in tonight’s rendition pleasantly listenable and extending the evening’s musical range. And now, back to Tempest, and we’re on to the blues-rock of ‘Pay In Blood’. This song, which can be read as a dramatic monologue, an enraged diatribe against whites by a former slave, comes across in all its hard-hitting fierceness, with Dylan snarling the anger out. It sounds every bit as forceful as ‘The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll’, and may be a welcome setlist successor to that classic.

 Next, and something of an anticlimax, comes one of the night’s less successful renditions. ‘Tangled Up In Blue’ is hailed by the audience, no doubt because people recognise it, but, as two years ago in the Rockhal when I last heard it, the Blood on the Tracks classic is severely truncated, the original seven stanzas pared down to only four (original stanzas 1, 2, 5 and 7). This time round, there are substantial lyric changes – which I cannot comment on as the words went by too fast – in (original) stanzas 5 and 7. One could argue that these changes make it a different song and therefore complaints about the hatchet job become redundant, but I would still rather he didn’t slash this particular song when there are other, inferior long songs in the Dylan canon which might actually benefit from a spot of pruning. The arrangement, too, is a shade pedestrian. Things hot up, however, with a strong, musically and vocally growling ‘Love Sick’, a version close to the original but with a more insistent ground-riff. Here as in most of the night’s slower numbers, Dylan is highly audible and very much in control. And on that note, he leaves us for a brief intermission.

 **

The second half kicks off triumphantly with one of the night’s finest moments, ‘High Water (For Charley Patton)’. On this worthy successor to ‘Highway 61 Revisited’ or ‘Tombstone Blues’, a centre-stage Dylan enunciates the darkly ironic lyrics with relish, with the droning banjo keeping up the obsessive atmosphere. The delivery is slow and sinister, the atmosphere potent with menace: when the song ends, the audience respond with the show’s keenest accolade yet. It is followed by another strong performance, a wistful, mournful ‘Simple Twist of Fate’, with Bob eloquent on both piano and vocals. This particular warhorse is, unlike its Blood on the Tracks stablemate ‘Tangled Up in Blue’, allowed to stay entire (Dylan sings all six stanzas), with the lyric a compromise between the original and Live at Budokan versions and nothing sounding like an actual innovation. Next, back to Tempest with what may be the darkest of that album’s dark songs, Early Roman Kings – an exploration of evil in which the protagonist seems himself to be more and more taken over by that evil as the song progresses. Dylan’ vocals sink deep into the vampiric atmosphere, and the arrangement is as heavily-charged a Chicago blues as on the album, though sounding somewhat less like Muddy Waters’ ‘Mannish Boy’ than does the original. As it ends, someone in the audience calls out: ‘Like A Rolling Stone!’

 Dylan ignores that lone request, and launches into ‘Forgetful Heart’ – another highlight of the night, slow, yearning, beautifully audible, with country-tinged, quavering violin. And now … the musical register changes altogether as Dylan offers a surprising rearrangement of ‘Spirit on the Water’. I find this Modern Times number unstructured, over-long and, on the record, difficult to concentrate on, but tonight any vacuity in the lyrics is compensated by an audacious, multi-tempo jazz arrangement, with vocals and music competing for supremacy. After that, it’s back to Tempest, with the dark, foreboding ‘Scarlet Town’. For this one, Dylan drops the violin from the album version, but the guitar and banjo arrangement respects the song’s dense complexity and the lyrics emerge charged with emotion – Dylan’s vocal is specially moving in the ‘Sweet William’ stanza, with its ballad reminiscences of ‘Barbara Allen’. We stay with Tempest for ‘Soon After Midnight’, performed with brio much as on the album, and then for what proves the evening’s final triumph – the song debuted by Dylan on this tour, ‘Long and Wasted Years’. This composition has an intricate narrative line that makes it seem like a short story in song, and, here as on the album, Dylan delivers the abrasive lyrics in all but talking-blues fashion over a repetitive riff. The song is a challenge to both himself and the audience – and he pulls it off beautifully, crowning the concert proper with a virtuoso performance.

 In a sense, ‘Long and Wasted Years’ is the concert’s true and climactic end. The two encores are Dylan’s obligatory concession to the weight of the past, but neither ‘All Along the Watchtower’ nor ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ convinces. The arrangements are pleasant, but seem slight compared to what went before. Unless it’s me mishearing, Dylan stumbles over the words at least once in both – bizarre considering he cannot possibly not know these two, of all his songs, by heart: but maybe familiarity breeds inattention.

 Nonetheless, all in all this has been a remarkable concert with a plurality of high points. The best performances, and they were many, have throbbed with a constant sense of energy and drama.  On a night like this, with Bob Dylan in such unexpectedly fine fettle, ‘What Good Am I?’ certainly feels like a rhetorical question! After this memorable evening, let us hope a clear-sighted Bob Dylan is seeing himself as clear as his admirers who have had him on their mind!  

 

 

A LIBRARY AND AN OAK-TREE: THE JOSÉ SARAMAGO FOUNDATION IN LISBON

The historic Casa dos Bicos in Lisbon, in the lower part of town near the Santa Apolónia railway station, is a beautifully restored 16th-century edifice originally built after an Italian model, Ferrara’s Palazzo dei Diamanti. Since 2012, it has been the headquarters of the José Saramago Foundation (Fundação José Saramago). The Foundation – which, set up in 2007, antedates Saramago’s death at the age of 87 in 2010 – is dedicated to the memory and continuation of the work of Portugal’s great novelist, 1998 Nobel literature laureate and campaigner for a better world.

Saramago Fundacion2 Saramago Fundacion1

The building hosts temporary exhibitions and concerts, and its library and bookshop are open to the public daily. The bookshop sells Saramago memorabilia ranging from keyrings to coffee-cups and, more importantly, the full range of the author’s works in both Portuguese and Spanish, as well as numerous versions in other languages. The library offers a massive collection of originals, translations – to see all of Saramago’s works together in a vast range of languages from Croatian to Korean is enormously moving – as well as biography and criticism. It also offers showings of a film relating the home life of the writer and his wife Pilar del Río in their later years on Lanzarote in the Canary Islands. The full contents of the library, translations and critical works included, are listed on the Foundation’s website, thus making it an example for other similar societies, present and future.

Outside the Foundation is a holm-oak (in Portuguese, azinheira), the signature tree of Saramago’s home region, the Ribatejo in central Portugal (the same tree features in ‘Grândola, Vila Morena’, the song by another canonic Portuguese militant, the singer-songwriter José Afonso, which, aired on the radio on 25 April 1974, sparked off the country’s anti-fascist revolution).

Saramago Fundacion5 Saramago Fundacion6

Next to the tree are two slabs in the ground. One reads: ‘José Saramago 1922-2010’; the other: ‘Mas não subiu para as estrelas se à terra pertencia’ (‘But it did not rise to the stars, for it belonged to the earth’). Those words, though not identified on the slab, are from the closing sentence of Memorial do Convento (Baltasar and Blimunda), Saramago’s novel of 1982, and recall the writer’s lifelong rejection of religious discourse and his affirmation of the material world as the authentic space of human struggle.

Saramago Fundacion3 Saramago Fundacion4

Struck by the tree and its slabs, I photographed them with care. Yet it was only afterwards that I realised the full significance of the scenario they formed. A few days after my return from Lisbon, I discovered on the internet, at:

www.tsf.pt/PaginaInicial/Vida/Interior.aspx?content_id=1880719

and

http://sol.sapo.pt/inicio/Cultura/Interior.aspx?content_id=44900

that the holm-oak had been brought from Saramago’s native village, Azinhaga in the Ribatejo, and not only that but – of this I admit I had had no idea – under that tree is the resting-place of José Saramago. His ashes are interred, not in Azinhaga or on Lanzarote, but there under that azinheira in Lisbon. I had been at José Saramago’s grave without knowing it, and for that reason as for many others, the exemplary Fundação José Saramago will remain etched on my mind, as a memorial to Saramago and to literature.

**

The site of the Fundação José Saramago (versions in Portuguese and Spanish), is at:

www.josesaramago.org/

‘I AM MALALA’: EDUCATION AS A WORLDWIDE RIGHT

All who care about education, and indeed all educators, wherever in the world they may live, could usefully take out time to read Malala Yousafzai’s book, published in late 2013:

‘I AM MALALA: The girl who stood up for education and was shot by the Taliban’ – Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb, London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2013

At the age of 16, Malala Yousafzai, born in the Swat Valley in Pakistan and now resident in Birmingham, England, has become a global icon for the right to education, and above all the right of women and girls to education. The fact that she is now a worldwide celebrity should deter no-one from reading her eloquent memoir, written with the editorial aid of journalist Christina Lamb but through which there shines throughout a clear and lucid authorial voice.

Malala

We learn how Malala’s father – a passionate believer in education for all and, like Malala herself, fluent in Pashto, Urdu and English – struggled to set up the school in Swat at which his daughter became a pupil; how the Pakistan Taliban became the de facto rulers of Swat and set up a nightmare regime under which girls were told they would go to heaven if they abandoned school, and 400 schools were destroyed; how Malala authored a blog in favour of education rights and became a target for the Taliban; how a Taliban gunman almost killed her, and how, hospitalised in England, she miraculously survived and went on to author this book and to campaign for girls’ education worldwide while simultaneously living the everyday life of a secondary school pupil in Birmingham.

‘How dare the Taliban take away my basic right to education?’, asks Malala on page 118. This book holds up the mirror to both Islamic fundamentalists and the cultural relativists who whitewash them in the West. It deserves to be required reading for anyone who believes in the right to education, and to those who doubt that right too. Despite the dark nature of the forces against which Malala and her father fight, it is also powerful reading, enjoyable and deeply moving by turns. I am sure I will be returning to this book on a later occasion, and meanwhile I strongly recommend all those who believe in a better future for the human race to read it. 

NOTE 1): See also entry on this blog for 15 Jan 2014:

“MALALA IS NOT ALONE: THE TRAGIC SACRIFICE OF 15-YEAR-OLD AITZAZ HASAN IN PAKISTAN”

NOTE 2) Added 1 Feb 2014:

On 28 Jan 2014, The Guardian reported the following:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jan/28/malala-yousafzai-pakistan-book-launch-scrapped

Jon Boone, ‘Malala Yousafzai memoir launch scrapped in Pakistan’:

‘An attempt to launch the memoir of the Pakistani schoolgirl who became a global icon after being shot in the head by the Taliban in her home province has been scuppered by opposition from local politicians.

Malala Yousafzai’s book was due to be launched at an event on Monday at Peshawar University but organisers were forced to scrap it after the intervention of two senior members of the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province  (…) 

The event that was to have been held at the university’s Central Asia Area Study Centre had been intended to raise awareness of a book which is not widely available in Pakistan.

(…)

Few booksellers dare stock it after the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which is particularly strong in KP, threatened to attack shops selling copies of I Am Malala.

Organisers said they came under enormous pressure to abandon the event, with ministers, the police and university officials all intervening (…)’

 

MEXICAN ART IN PARIS/ARTE MEXICANA EN PARÍS: EXHIBITION/MUESTRA, FRIDA KAHLO/DIEGO RIVERA

Some of the highest achievements of modern Mexican art will soon be on display to European eyes in Paris, as the Musée de l’Orangerie prepares to host the major exhibition ‘Frida Kahlo/Diego Rivera – L’art en fusion’, from 9 October 2013 13 January 2014:

http://bit.ly/7191kahlo

The exhibition will include works by both Frida Kahlo, probably the most important woman artist of the 20th century, and her fellow painter and twice husband, Diego Rivera. A preview can be found in the October 2013 number of the magazine Connaissance des Arts (pp. 56-62). This will be a event raising the profile of Mexican art in Europe, not to be missed!

 Fridaportada

**

Algunos de los mayores logros del arte moderno de México se revelarán dentro de poco al público europeo, en París: el Musée de l’Orangerie se prepara para recibir una exposición de envergadura, ‘Frida Kahlo/Diego Rivera – L’art en fusion’, entre el 9-X-2013 y el 13-I-2014:

http://bit.ly/7191kahlo

 La muestra incluirá obras tanto de Frida Kahlo, probablemente la más importante artista femenina del siglo XX, y su dos veces marido, el también pintor Diego Rivera. Una vista previa del evento se encuentra en el número de octubre 2013 de la revista Connaissance des Arts (págs. 56-62). ¡Este acontecimiento, que seguramente ensalzará el perfil del arte mexicano en Europa, será, absolutamente, no de perder!

Note/nota, 28-I-14:

I have written up this exhibition on this blog / He agregado reporte de esta mestra, en esta bitácora (27-I-14)

India at centre of EUROPALIA festival in Brussels, Oct 2013-Jan 2014

India will be the centre of attention in the cultural world of Brussels, in the EUROPALIA arts festival, this year dedicated entirely to India. The festival will be based in Brussels (with events elsewhere in Belgium and acrosss the border in France and Holland,) and will run from 4 Oct 2013 to 26 Jan 2014.

BrusselsGrandPlace

See the Europalia website: http://www.europalia.eu/ for details of
exhibitions, concerts, lectures, etc. Exhibitions will include ‘The Body in Indian Art’, ‘Indomania: from Rembrandt to the Beatles’ and ‘Ramayana: Miniatures from the National Museum of New Delhi’ (all in Brussels). I have witnessed earlier Europalias and can vouch for the festival’s high standards – it will really be worth a special journey!

Reseña de / review of Miguel Capistrán (ed.), “BORGES Y MÉXICO”

En/at: http://yatrarollason.info/files/BorgesyMexico.pdf

encontrarán/you will find

mi reseña (únicamente disponible en español) del libro/

my review (only available in Spanish) of the book:

Borges y México, ed. Miguel Capistrán, México DF: Lumen/Mondadori, 2a edición 2012, 371 pp., ISBN 978-607-311-250-5

**

BorgesyMexico

EXTRACTO:

En ‘El Aleph’, su célebre relato de ‘uno de los puntos del espacio que contienen todos los puntos’, Jorge Luis Borges no se olvida de evocar, en aras de la universalidad, dos ubicaciones mexicanas: ‘un gasómetro al norte de Veracruz’ y ‘un poniente en Querétaro que parecía reflejar el color de una rosa en Bengala’. México, por ende, no está ausente de la obra del ilustre argentino, y el volumen que nos ocupará en esta reseña constituye una necesaria piedra en el mosaico de los estudios borgianos.

 Este libro nos llega ahora en su segunda edición, tan diferente de la primera que casi parece constituir otro libro. Se trata de la compilación Borges y México editada por Miguel Capistrán, crítico literario que ya se distinguió en los anales borgianos por el hecho de haber traído al maestro a tierras mexicanas en dos ocasiones, concretamente para los dos primeros de los tres viajes que emprendió a México, en 1973 (para recibir el Premio Alfonso Reyes) y luego en 1978. Este libro, cuya primera edición fue publicada en 1999 por Plaza y Janes, reaparece ahora con un contenido muy distinto. En ambas versiones se trata principalmente de una recopilación de textos de autores mexicanos compuestos alrededor del gran tema borgiano, pero en esta reedición las piezas se componen de forma diferente, y se ha añadido una agrupación de textos en tema mexicano firmados por el genial bonaerense. Incluso se puede afirmar que se trata no de dos libros sino tres, pues una primera tirada de esta segunda edición tuvo que ser suprimida: la aportación de Elena Poniatowska bajo la forma de una entrevista de 1973 con el maestro fue retirada a pedido de la viuda de Borges, Maria Kodama, pues traía (a diferencia de la versión de la misma entrevista que había aparecido sin incidentes en la primera edición) un poema que, cabalmente, no era de la autoría del gran argentino. El libro volvió a aparecer, amputado de 31 páginas y sin contar a Poniatowska en la galaxia de sus colaboradores.

El volumen en su estado actual se estructura según el esquema que explicamos a continuación. Lo abren una ‘Advertencia’ y un prólogo del editor. La primera parte, ‘Borges y Reyes’ está dedicada a las relaciones entre Borges y el escritor mexicano a quien fue más cercano, Alfonso Reyes (1889-1959), componiéndose de una serie de textos pertinentes al tema. La segunda parte, ‘Autores mexicanos sobre Borges’, ofrece un abanico de textos-homenaje de 21 escritores, entre los cuales se destacan las dos máximas figuras de la literatura moderna de México, Carlos Fuentes y Octavio Paz. Finalmente, en la tercera parte, ‘Breve antología – Jorge Luis Borges’, se agrupan una docena de textos borgianos (poemas, cuentos, ensayos) de temática total o parcialmente mexicana (de estos textos, tres se refieren a Reyes, así que hay cierto solapamiento entre las partes primera y tercera). La entrevista suprimida de Poniatowska se incluía en la segunda parte, y, curiosamente y no se sabe debido a qué clase de lapso, un par de referencias a ese texto han sobrevivido en el prólogo (…)

FROM BIOY CASARES TO CARINA THE BOT: LITERATURE ANTICIPATES TECHNO-IRREALITY / DE BIOY CASARES AL ROBOT CARINA: LA LITERATURA ANTICIPA LA TECNOIRREALIDAD

In 1940, the Argentinian writer Adolfo Bioy Casares published a remarkable science-fiction novel, La Invención de Morel (The Invention of Morel), in which the male protagonist falls in love with a beautiful woman on a strange island, only to discover that she does not exist: she is what we would today call a computer-generated image. Faustine, the object of the narrator’s desire, is literally the brainchild of Morel, a ruthless scientist who controls the island and its doings (Adolfo Bioy Casares, La invención de Morel. 1940. Madrid: Cátedra, 1982).

Between 2011 and 2013 in Brazil, 700 twitterati were led up the garden path – or as Borges might have put it, led up the garden of  forking paths – by the repeated tweets of Carina Santos: a young Brazilian journalist based in Rio de Janeiro and working for the Globo news channel … The only problem was that after two years, Carina Santos’ true identity  was revealed. She did not exist: she was a computer-generated robot, a bot created as an experiment by a team of Brazilian academics. Her tweets – around the subject of Globo, or on Brazilian politics – were a collection of real tweets by diverse twitterati, automatically copied to her account. It is not recorded whether any of her followers fell in love with her.

The on-line newspaper The Huffington Post (Bianca Bosker, « Twitter Bots Have No Trouble Fooling You, Getting More Influence Than Oprah », 8 July 2013,

www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/08/twitter-bots-influence_n_3542561.html) reported :

‘According to her Twitter bio, Carina Santos is a blonde, female journalist based in Rio de Janeiro who works with Globo, a 24-hour news channel in Brazil. She sends around 50 tweets per day on the top news of the moment — from sports scores to celebrity gossip — to her nearly 700 followers. Twitalyzer, a social media analytics firm, judged her to be nearly as influential an online personality as [TV presenter] Ryan Seacrest.

There’s only one problem: Santos, or @Scarina91, is also a bot.

“She” was created in 2011 by a team of researchers in the computer science department at Brazil’s Federal University of Ouro Preto, which sought to gauge how easily services that measure influence on Twitter could be manipulated … The bot was set up to tweet about the most popular news topics featured on Globo’s site, and the tweets were automatically generated by a system that regurgitated other users’ tweets, ensuring her Twitter stream looked believably human … Though some of her followers may have been bots themselves, @Scarina91 appears to have been a hit with her fellow Twitter users, receiving 94 retweets and 109 “@” replies, or mentions, during the 90 days the researchers monitored her activity.

Carina Santos’ tweets are collected at: https://twitter.com/scarina91. There, she was stated to have 719 followers as at 16 July 2013, so despite the revelations she is continuing to attract new dupes.

Bioy Casares’ Morel would be proud indeed of her, and, not for the first time, we see how the imaginative writing of the twentieth century uncannily anticipates the technological challenges of the twenty-first!

**

En 1940, el escritor argentino Adolfo Bioy Casares publicó una extraordinaria novela de ciencia ficción, La Invención de Morel, en la cual el protagonista masculino se enamora de una hermosa mujer en una isla extraña, para descubrir al final que en realidad ella es una imagen generada por (como diríamos hoy …) computadora. Faustine, la mujer deseada por él, es la creación del ingenio de Morel, científico impiadoso que controla la isla y las ilusiones que genera (Adolfo Bioy Casares, La invención de Morel. 1940. Madrid: Cátedra, 1982).

Entre 2011 y 2013 en Brasil, 700 tuiteros cayeron en una trampa – o laberinto borgiana, auténtico jardín de senderos que se bifurcan – por los tuits en serie firmados por Carina Santos: una joven periodista de Río, empleada del conocido canal de noticias, Globo. Sólo que, dos años más tarde, se reveló la verdadera identidad de Carina Santos. No existía: era un robot generado por computadora, un ‘bot’ creado en el marco de un experimento de parte de un equipo de universitarios brasileños. Sus tuits – alrededor de temas de Globo o de política brasileña – eran una aglomeración de tuits reales de la autoría de diversos tuiteros, copiados de forma automática hacia su cuenta. La historia no indica si alguno de sus seguidores se enamoró de ella.

Sigue a continuación, traducido por nosotros al español, un comentario del periódico en línea The Huffington Post (Bianca Bosker, « Twitter Bots Have No Trouble Fooling You, Getting More Influence Than Oprah », 8 July 2013,

www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/08/twitter-bots-influence_n_3542561.html):

‘Según su biografía en Twitter, Carina Santos es una periodista rubia que trabaja en Río de Janeiro para Globo, cadena brasileña de noticias 24/24. Cada día, emite una cincuentena de tuits en los temas más salientes del noticiario del momento – desde resultados deportivos hasta chismes de celebridades – destinados a sus seguidores, cuyo número roza los 700. Twitalyzer, empresa de analítica de medios sociales, la juzgó, en cuanto personalidad en línea, casi tan influente como [el presentador de televisión estadounidense] Ryan Seacrest.

Interviene no obstante un problemilla: Santos, o @Scarina91, es un bot.

“Ella” fue creada en 2011 por un equipo de investigadores del departamento de ciencias computacionales de la Universidad Federal de Ouro Preto, con el propósito de calibrar con qué grado de facilidad se puede manipular los servicios que calculan la ‘influencia en Twitter’ … El bot fue concebido para tuitear acerca de los temas de noticias más populares que aparecen en el sitio de Globo, siendo los tuits generados automáticamente por un sistema que reciclaba los tuits de utilizadores existentes, para asegurar el aspecto creíblemente humano de su flujo de mensajes en Twitter … Si bien algunos de sus seguidores podrían ser bots ellos mismos. @Scarina91 parece haber sido un éxito con sus compañeros de Twitter, pudiendo lucir 94 retuits y 109 “respuestas @”, o menciones, durante los 90 días en que los investigadores monitoreaban su actividad.’

Los tuits de Carina Santos se pueden consultar en: https://twitter.com/scarina91. Allí, en fecha del 16 de julio de 2013 se anunciaba que tenía 719 seguidores: así, a pesar de las revelaciones, sigue engañando a más admiradores.

El Morel de Bioy Casares se sentiría muy orgulloso de Carina. No por la primera vez, nos damos cuenta de cómo la literatura del siglo XX anticipa, de forma escalofriante, los nuevos y extraños retos tecnológicos del XXI …

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