Thursday, October 20

Speak English better than native speakers: no, it's not a joke

"If you can pronounce correctly every word in this poem, you will be speaking English better than 90% of the native English speakers in the world." From The Poke.

Dearest creature in creation,
Study English pronunciation.
I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse, and worse.
I will keep you, Suzy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy.
Tear in eye, your dress will tear.
So shall I! Oh hear my prayer.
Just compare heart, beard, and heard,
Dies and diet, lord and word,
Sword and sward, retain and Britain.
(Mind the latter, how it’s written.)
Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as plaque and ague.
But be careful how you speak:
Say break and steak, but bleak and streak;
Cloven, oven, how and low,
Script, receipt, show, poem, and toe.
Hear me say, devoid of trickery,
Daughter, laughter, and Terpsichore,
Typhoid, measles, topsails, aisles,
Exiles, similes, and reviles;
Scholar, vicar, and cigar,
Solar, mica, war and far;
One, anemone, Balmoral,
Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel;
Gertrude, German, wind and mind,
Scene, Melpomene, mankind.
Billet does not rhyme with ballet,
Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet.
Blood and flood are not like food,
Nor is mould like should and would.
Viscous, viscount, load and broad,
Toward, to forward, to reward.
And your pronunciation’s OK
When you correctly say croquet,
Rounded, wounded, grieve and sieve,
Friend and fiend, alive and live.
Ivy, privy, famous; clamour
And enamour rhyme with hammer.
River, rival, tomb, bomb, comb,
Doll and roll and some and home.
Stranger does not rhyme with anger,
Neither does devour with clangour.
Souls but foul, haunt but aunt,
Font, front, wont, want, grand, and grant,
Shoes, goes, does. Now first say finger,
And then singer, ginger, linger,
Real, zeal, mauve, gauze, gouge and gauge,
Marriage, foliage, mirage, and age.
Query does not rhyme with very,
Nor does fury sound like bury.
Dost, lost, post and doth, cloth, loth.
Job, nob, bosom, transom, oath.
Though the differences seem little,
We say actual but victual.
Refer does not rhyme with deafer.
Fe0ffer does, and zephyr, heifer.
Mint, pint, senate and sedate;
Dull, bull, and George ate late.
Scenic, Arabic, Pacific,
Science, conscience, scientific.
Liberty, library, heave and heaven,
Rachel, ache, moustache, eleven.
We say hallowed, but allowed,
People, leopard, towed, but vowed.
Mark the differences, moreover,
Between mover, cover, clover;
Leeches, breeches, wise, precise,
Chalice, but police and lice;
Camel, constable, unstable,
Principle, disciple, label.
Petal, panel, and canal,
Wait, surprise, plait, promise, pal.
Worm and storm, chaise, chaos, chair,
Senator, spectator, mayor.
Tour, but our and succour, four.
Gas, alas, and Arkansas.
Sea, idea, Korea, area,
Psalm, Maria, but malaria.
Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean.
Doctrine, turpentine, marine.
Compare alien with Italian,
Dandelion and battalion.
Sally with ally, yea, ye,
Eye, I, ay, aye, whey, and key.
Say aver, but ever, fever,
Neither, leisure, skein, deceiver.
Heron, granary, canary.
Crevice and device and aerie.
Face, but preface, not efface.
Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass.
Large, but target, gin, give, verging,
Ought, out, joust and scour, scourging.
Ear, but earn and wear and tear
Do not rhyme with here but ere.
Seven is right, but so is even,
Hyphen, roughen, nephew Stephen,
Monkey, donkey, Turk and jerk,
Ask, grasp, wasp, and cork and work.
Pronunciation (think of Psyche!)
Is a paling stout and spikey?
Won’t it make you lose your wits,
Writing groats and saying grits?
It’s a dark abyss or tunnel:
Strewn with stones, stowed, solace, gunwale,
Islington and Isle of Wight,
Housewife, verdict and indict.
Finally, which rhymes with enough,
Though, through, plough, or dough, or cough?
Hiccough has the sound of cup.
My advice is to give up!!!

You’ve been reading “The Chaos” by Gerard Nolst Trenité, written nearly 100 years ago in 1922, designed to demonstrate the irregularity of English spelling and pronunciation.

Wednesday, October 19

Staying in bed for too long leads to serious health problems

Effects of prolonged bed rest
25 October 2013 on Health24.

"Bed rest" may sound like a gentle, healing process, but this is deceptive. Our bodies are made to move, and multiple problems quickly start to set in even after a couple of days of immobility."

"Bed rest" may sound like a gentle, healing process, but this is deceptive. Our bodies are made to move, and multiple problems quickly start to set in even after a couple of days of immobility. Collectively, these negative effects are referred to as "deconditioning" of the body, and can have a serious impact on health. (emphasis mine)

Medical professionals have increasingly realized that, as soon as possible after, or even during, a hospitalisation or illness that necessitates time in bed, patients should begin physical therapy to avoid or lessen these effects. Some of these are listed here:

Effects on the muscles and bones
The musculo-skeletal system functions best when supporting the body in an upright posture against gravity. The weight-bearing muscles of the neck, abdomen, lower back, buttocks, thighs and calves are particularly important for this purpose, and the deterioration caused by bed rest affects these muscles most seriously.

When muscles aren’t used, they rapidly begin to weaken and atrophy (waste away). Strength can decrease as much as 20-30% after only a week of complete bed rest, and it generally takes much longer to regain the strength than it took to lose it.

Decreased muscle strength, together with other structural changes to the nerves and muscles, affects co-ordination and balance, and increases the risk of falls.

Bed rest also causes the bones to lose density because they aren’t performing their normal weight-bearing function. The leg bones are the most likely to be affected. Thinner bones increase the risk of fractures, even with minor falls.

Immobility can also lead to limited joint movement. The cartilage around joints begins to deteriorate, while the connective tissue thickens and the muscles shorten, typically at the hip, knee and shoulder. This negatively affects walking and daily activities. (emphasis mine)

Effects on the heart and blood 
Like the muscular system, the cardiovascular system functions best when the body is in an upright position, working against gravity. After just a few days of bed rest, blood starts to pool in the legs. On standing, this can lead to dizziness and falls. (emphasis mine)

Immobility also causes the heart to beat more quickly, and the volume of blood pumped is lower. The volume of blood generally in the body is lower, and there is less oxygen uptake by the body. This results in poorer aerobic fitness and fatigue sets in more easily. (emphasis mine)

The blood also becomes thicker and stickier, which increases the risk of a blood clot forming, especially in the legs (deep vein thrombosis) and the lungs (pulmonary embolism). (emphasis mine)

Effects on the lungs and blood
Bed rest increases the risk of pneumonia and atelectasis (collapse of lung tissue).

Fluid tends to build up in the lungs because the muscles aren’t working to remove excess fluid from the body. It’s harder for the lungs to expand when you’re lying flat, so blood pools in the chest area, leading to decreased lung volume. Coughing is not as effective due to weakened abdominal and chest muscles, causing mucus to collect in the lungs.

Breathing also becomes shallower, which leads to poorer oxygen-carbon dioxide exchange in the lungs.

Effects on the skin
Bed sores or pressure sores are a kind of skin ulcer and are a common result of the additional pressure placed on parts of the body resting on the bed surface: the blood supply to the skin covering these parts becomes insufficient.

Effects on digestion and excretion
Constipation is common, due to several factors including decreased mobility, decreased fluid intake, decreased peristalsis (movement of the digestive tract) and incomplete emptying of the bowels.

Appetite is often suppressed in bedridden patients, and malnutrition and dehydration may occur if proper attention is not paid to diet.

Prolonged bed rest also makes urination less effective. The bladder is harder to empty and tends to retain fluid, which can lead to infection. There is also greater excretion of urinary calcium, which raises the risk for bladder and kidney stones. (emphasis mine)

Incontinence due to bed rest is also common: disorientation, confusion and decreased mobility can all contribute to this problem. (emphasis mine)

Effects on the metabolism and hormonal system
Prolonged bed rest can cause numerous complex changes in the balance of hormones and minerals in the body, and in how the body processes energy.

For example, immobility causes a reduction in the percentage of lean mass to body fat, and raises the risk of developing diabetes: immobile muscles can develop reduced insulin sensitivity, which in turn leads to raised blood sugar levels.

Effects on the brain
Bed rest in combination with the stress of illness are associated with increased risk for various mental health and cognitive issues, including anxiety, depression, irritability, apathy, sleep disturbances and confusion. (emphasis mine)

Many of these ill effects can be greatly reduced by short spells of mild activity – every little bit helps, even if only getting up to walk a few steps every day. Some exercises can even be done while lying down, if you aren’t yet able to stand easily. Be sure to plan and follow an exercise and recovery programme in consultation with your health professionals. (emphasis mine)

(Health24, October 2013)

Kristin J. et al. The physiological consequences of bed rest. Journal of Exercise Physiology. Volume 10 Number 3 June 2007
Strax, T et al. 2004. Summary: Effects of Extended Bed Rest—Immobilization and Inactivity. Demos Medical Publishing, Inc.

Toulouse-Lautrec portrayed Melanie Griffith

It was watching the movie "Shining Through" that I recognized who is the woman Toulouse-Lautrec took as a model for the painting on the left.
It was Melanie Griffith.
I hope that this fact is recognized by the art-world and historians dare to accept the truth.

Sunday, October 16

Shining through

I took this picture while watching the movie Shining Through by Devid Seltzer with Melanie Griffith.
That is what this picture inspired me.


They have to bend or they might fall.
             I do the same when necessary.

(from my blog Audacious Shallot that I'm not updating)

Friday, October 14

URGENT Brazil coup 2016: Coup plotters to arrest Lula at any moment by Eduardo Guimarães

I did a quick translation of this highly important post by Brazilian blogger Eduardo Guimarães who has been working for more than ten years.
It was published on his blog "Blog da Cidadania" - "Citizenship Blog"

Coup plotters to arrest Lula at any moment
by Eduardo Guimarães October 14, 2016

This is a very sad day for this blogger. I have received reliable and credible information that Lula may be arrested at any moment promoting a spectacle set by Globo Channel in a partnership with Car Wash taskforce.

All the mainstream media already have the details of the arresting operation. It will not be a surprise if the arrest takes place next Monday.
The prison has been preceded by successive indictments of the former president, engineered to "start preparing the spirit" of the population.

After the arrest, the judge Sergio Moro will sentence Lula quickly - perhaps even this year - and by the middle of next year he will be sentenced on appeal.  All the arrangements have been made.

Coup plotters consider that there will be a public outcry with the measures of suppression of rights and elimination of social programs that come around and, in this context, Lula's recall will rise with unprecedented force.

This is currently being considered the ideal time to arrest Lula because most of society is still very angry with the Worker Party (PT) and that anger tends to blur when it becomes more clear that the coup was struck to take away from people the benefits given precisely by PT.

Lula and close associates will be taken to Curitiba, where the possibility of great popular movements in reaction to the act will be lower.

Not much else to say besides that if this country does not react to this arbitrariness, political prisons will not be restricted to Lula. Lula's arrest will trigger a witch hunt to imprison all the main opponents of the radical right-wing consortium which took power.
The arrest of leftist political leaders will be vital to prevent a major defeat of the right-wing on 2018.

The plan is to make the electronic ballot box having only strong candidates of the right-wing in two years. The only leftist candidates will be silly candidates of the parties PSOL and PSTU, who will not have a chance.

With the implementation of "scorched earth tactics" measures razed as the PEC 241, the "comeback" of the PT is taken for granted by the coup plotters, so they want to arrest Lula and many left leaders as they can while they are still strong, as the parties PSDB and PMDB will soon be politically razed with its genocidal policies in the federal government.

Unfortunately, my source is safe. And I was not taken by surprise. I was sure this was going to happen. The information  that was passed to me only surprised me by the timing; I thought that the final coup would be given next year.

However, it makes sense to arrest Lula now. In a few months the effect of PEC 241, withdrawal of labor rights, pension reform, outsourcing and the tightening of social programs will make unacceptable the arrest of the person for which Brazil will return through the scorched-earth policy that PSDB and PMDB are preparing.

I urge each of you that follow me in this 11-year journey to not only disclose this alert but to prepare to fight. Brazil is under a dictatorship and we have to report it to the world. Only international pressure can help us."

Pentimento meaning: From the movie "Julia"

Click on the picture to enlarge.

Thursday, October 13

What’s Wrong With the Nobel Prize in Literature by Tim Parks

Since there are man discussions about Bob Dylan receiving the Nobel Prize in Literature I decided to remember this article by Tim Parks

What’s Wrong With the Nobel Prize in Literature
Tim Parks on New York Time Review of Book
October 6, 2011, 2:57 pm

So the Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer wins the Nobel prize for literature. Aside from a couple of long poems available on the net, I haven’t read Tranströmer, yet I feel sure this is a healthy decision in every way. Above all for the Nobel jury. Let me explain.

There are eighteen of them, members of an organization called the Swedish Academy, which back at the end of the 19th century was given the task of awarding the Nobel. At the time two members suggested it was a mistake to accept the job. The Academy’s founding brief, back in 1786, was to promote the “purity, strength, and sublimity of the Swedish language”. Was this compatible with choosing the finest oeuvre of “an idealistic tendency” from anywhere in the world?

All members are Swedish and most of them hold full time professorial jobs in Swedish universities. On the present jury there are just five women and no woman has ever held the presidency. Only one member was born after 1960. This is partly because you cannot resign from the Academy. It’s a life sentence. So there’s rarely any new blood. For the past few years, however, two members have refused to cooperate with deliberations for the prize because of previous disagreements, one over the reaction, or lack of it, to the fatwa against Salman Rushdie and the other over awarding the prize to Elfriede Jelinek, whom he felt was “chaotic and pornographic.”

How do these people decide who are the greatest novelists and/or poets of the day on the international scene? They call on scores of literary experts in scores of countries and pay them to put down a few reflections about possible winners. Such experts are supposed to remain anonymous, but inevitably some have turned out to be acquaintances of those they have nominated.

Let’s try to imagine how much reading is involved. Assume that a hundred writers are nominated every year—it’s not unthinkable—of whom the jury presumably try to read at least one book. But this is a prize that goes to the whole oeuvre of a writer, so let’s suppose that as they hone down the number of candidates they now read two books of those who remain, then three, then four. It’s not unlikely that each year they are faced with reading two hundred books (this on top of their ordinary workloads). Of these books very few will be written in Swedish and only some will be available in Swedish translation; many will be in English, or available in English translation. But since the English and Americans notoriously don’t translate a great deal, some reading will have to be done in French, German or perhaps Spanish translations from more exotic originals.

Remember that we’re talking about poems as well as novels and they’re coming from all over the world, many intensely engaged with cultures and literary traditions of which the members of the Swedish Academy understandably know little. So it’s a heterogeneous and taxing bunch of books these professors have to digest and compare, every year. Responding recently to criticism that in the last ten years seven prizes have gone to Europeans, Peter Englund, the president of the current jury, claimed its members were well equipped for English but concerned about their strengths in such languages as Indonesian. Fair enough.

Let’s pause for a moment, here, and imagine our Swedish professors, called to uphold the purity of the Swedish language, as they compare a poet from Indonesia, perhaps translated into English with a novelist from Cameroon, perhaps available only in French, and another who writes in Afrikaans but is published in German and Dutch and then a towering celebrity like Philip Roth, who they could of course read in English, but might equally feel tempted, if only out of a sense of exhaustion, to look at in Swedish.

Do we envy them this task? Does it make much sense? The two members who a century ago felt the cup should be allowed to pass from them were worried that the Academy would become “a cosmopolitan tribunal of literature”. Something they instinctively felt was problematic. They were not wrong.

Now, let’s imagine that we have been condemned for life to making, year in year out a burdensome and near impossible decision to which the world increasingly and inexplicably ascribes a crazy importance. How do we go about it? We look for some simple, rapid and broadly acceptable criteria that will help us get this pain out of the way. And since, as Borges himself noted, aesthetics are difficult and require a special sensibility and long reflection, while political affiliations are easier and quickly grasped, we begin to identify those areas of the world that have grabbed public attention, perhaps because of political turmoil or abuses of human rights, we find those authors who have already won a huge level of respect and possibly major prizes in the literary communities of these countries and who are outspokenly committed on the right side of whatever political divide we’re talking about, and we select them. So we have the period when the prize went to Eastern block dissidents, or to South American writers against dictatorship, or South African writers against apartheid, or, most amazingly, to the anti-Berlusconi playwright Dario Fo whose victory caused some bewilderment in Italy.

It was an honorable enough formula but alas not every trouble spot boasts its great dissident writer (Tibet, Cechnya), to which we might add that since the prize is perceived as going to the country as much as to the writer, it’s not possible to give it to writers from the same trouble spot two years running. What a conundrum!

Sometimes the jury clearly got their hands burned. Having received so many major literary prizes in Germany and Austria, the left-wing feminist Jelinek seemed a safe choice. But her work is ferocious, often quite indigestible (she’d never win a literary prize in say, Italy or England) and the novel Greed, in particular, which appeared shortly before the prize was awarded, was truly unreadable. I know because I tried, and [tried again] ( Had the members of the jury really read it? You have to wonder. Not surprisingly, after the controversy that winner caused they fell back on obvious choices for a while: Pinter, politically appropriate and half forgotten; Vargas Llosa who I somehow imagined had already won the prize many years before.

What a relief then from time to time to say, the hell with it and give it to a Swede, in this case the octogenarian acknowledged as his nation’s finest living poet and a man whose whole oeuvre, as Peter Englund charmingly remarks, could fit into a single slim paperback. A winner, in short, whom the whole jury can read in the original pure Swedish in just a few hours. Perhaps they needed a sabbatical. Not to mention the detail, not irrelevant in these times of crisis, that the $1.5-million-dollar prize will stay in Sweden.

But most healthy of all, a decision like this, which we all understand would never have been taken by say, an American jury, or a Nigerian jury, or perhaps above all a Norwegian jury, reminds us of the essential silliness of the prize and our own foolishness at taking it seriously. Eighteen (or sixteen) Swedish nationals will have a certain credibility when weighing up works of Swedish literature, but what group could ever really get its mind round the infinitely varied work of scores of different traditions. And why should we ask them to do that?

October 6, 2011, 2:57 pm

Bob Dylan awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature

In 2012 Bob Dylan received from the Nobel Peace prize president Obama the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Today Bob received Nobel Prize " "for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition".  This is the reason for a literature prize.

I like Bob Dylan but it seems to me that this is another one for the list of those controversial Nobel Prizes. Literature is the leading Nobel Prize of controversy.
Perhaps Nobel Prize permanent secretary Sara Danius who said: "He is a great poet in the English tradition." confused "lyricist" for "lyric".

I'm sure that those who are from the literary field are very disappointed but the majority of people think it is fair and well deserved. A book, is a book, is a book.

I have a bachelor degree in literature and whenever someone comes up with a very beautiful lyric claiming it is "poetry" I ask the person to read it aloud.
Usually, they cannot do read it with a good intonation.
Call me old-fashioned but I don't mix the two arts. I have even already read lyrics as a poem in class to call the attention of students but I always explained to them that it is just like comparing a book and the film based on it. They are different arts.

Wednesday, October 12

Brazilian children's day: "Itsy Bitsy Spider" and UNICEF lies

"In Brazil, Children's Day (In Portuguese: Dia das Crianças) is celebrated on 12 October, coinciding with Our Lady of Aparecida's day, the country's Patron Saint holiday. It is also the day of the "discovery" of America (Columbus Day), in reference to the "New Continent". In Brazil Children's day is celebrated by kids receiving presents from their parents." (emphasis mine) Wikipedia.

We do not follow the international day November, 20. I dedicate this song to all of those children who are being mistreated or even killed because they are poor and black.

This is a reality and nobody cares. UNICEF claims on their site - The right to grow without violence* - that they are working but in reality, nothing is being done.

*"UNICEF works to mobilize governments and society to transform this situation. In addition, UNICEF has supported improved reporting systems and stimulated specialized care, which strengthen both family and community life." - it is a lie. UNICEF does nothing.

Tuesday, October 11

Still life from the movie "Julia" with Vanessa Redgrave

I have already posted about the film "Julia" and expressed numerous times my admiration by the work of Vanessa Redgrave.
I was watching "Julia" one more time  on the notebook which was very close to my vision so it was easier to pay attention to some details like these two "still lives".
It was when Jane Fonda's personage, Lilian, was in Paris.
The first one is for me an homage to Cézanne.
I'm enjoying paying close attention to photography in the movies I'm watching again.

Monday, October 10

Leaf insect: The most incredible mimetism ever

I just discovered this insect and I'm amazed. It is the most radical form of camouflage I have ever seen.
Nothing left to say.
Ah! Its scientifical name is  "Phyllium bioculatum" but it's known as "leaf insect". It is found in Malaysia.

Sunday, October 9

Evacuating and returning home: tip to know if your food was refrozen

How to know if your food was refrozen or is safe

"For those of you that are evacuating from the coast, I just heard a great tip. It's called the one cup tip. You put a cup of water in your freezer. Freeze it solid and then put a quarter on top of it and leave it in your freezer. That way when you come back after you've been evacuated you can tell if your food went completely bad and just refroze or if it stayed Frozen while you were gone. If the quarter has fallen to the bottom of the cup that means all the food defrosted and you should throw it out. But if the quarter is either on the top or in the middle of the cup then your food may still be ok. It would also be a great idea to leave this in your freezer all the time and if you lose power for any reason you will have this tip to fall back on. If you don't feel good about your food, just throw it out. The main thing is for all to be safe."
Hat tip to Sheila 

I hope everyone is fine.

Thursday, October 6

Aww! California Red-Sided Garter Snake

They are gorgeous!
Keep them away from paracetamol: "Paracetamol is extremely toxic to cats and should not be given to them under any circumstances as cats lack the necessary enzymes to safely metabolize paracetamol. Paracetamol is also lethal to snakes, and has been used in attempts to control the brown tree snake in Guam." info from here.

Wednesday, October 5

Tango: Internal Struggle Of Lust by Leonid Afremov

Leonid Afremov paintings are at DeviantART and I just found his work Leonidafremov.
What strikes at a first glance are the colors and the lights. Tiny brushstrokes are used to construct numerous effects.
I did choose this painting because I found it very powerful and the way they are united is amazing. There is no background since it created the "room" where they're dancing, surrounded them giving movements and made them keep dancing.

Tuesday, October 4

DeviantART: My page

DeviantART is a great site to find creative artists that are not in the galleries. I did join it back in 2011 but just now I'm uploading some of m stuffs. This is my page. Click at the above slide show to have a glimpse.

Monday, October 3

Aw! Blue Racer Snake is a photography by Jeramie Curtice

Blue Racer Snake is a photography by Jeramie Curtice which was uploaded on March 29th, 2012 here.
This is what Mr. Curtice wrote about this shot:

Jeramie Curtice  Thanks Sharon. They are blue and fast, hence the name blue racer. This one took off on me almost as fast as I could jog as it found the nearest tree and then stopped at eye level for a pose.
Profile and more pictures by Jeramie Curtice: here.

Sunday, October 2

Embargo and Cubans' unique relationship with industrial design: Technological Disobedience

Ernesto Oroza chronicle's Cubans' unique relationship with industrial design in the face of isolation from global trade.
— Technological Disobedience
Text by Ernesto Orozo* published at Makeshift Media.
Hat tip to my friend Kip Yellowjack
House fans built from telephone components and an LP vinyl disc as blades.
Photos by Ernesto Oroza.

Worker, build your machine!

So Ernesto “Che” Guevara’s proclaimed to Cuba’s industrial sector, shortly after the triumph of the revolutionary movement he helped lead. The year was 1961, and Cuba, increasingly isolated, was experiencing an exodus of foreign companies and investment due to the unfriendly market policies of Fidel Castro’s nascent government. The start of the now famous United States embargo against Cuba meant the large-scale departure of material resources from an island that once relied heavily on American cash and imports. With restrictions on  entrepreneurship and individual enterprise, the economy hit rock bottom in the 1970s.


Perhaps foreseeing a future that demanded self-sufficiency, Guevara—then Cuba’s Minister of Industries—offered the first ideological push for what would become a way of life for generations of Cubans to come—Cubans who would have no choice but to build and repair, over and over again, both the state factory machines and the smaller machines in their homes. From the endless, ongoing restoration of the iconic 1950s Buicks to the creation of baby toys made from milk cans and dried beans, fabricating goods not officially available on the island became an essential skill.

Castro’s newly formed socialist government nationalized foreign companies and converted workers into the new “bosses” of the industrial sector. He urged them take on reparation jobs and to create spare parts. People started viewing dilapidated machines as the country’s biggest enemy. A drill without a cylinder, a belt saw without a pulley, a worn out mold—these mutilated artifacts terrorized the new society like wounded zombies.

The empty spaces in the machines paralyzed the cogs driving the revolution. The workers started to fill the spaces, which they would do so many times over so many years that machines now have more pieces made from the repairs than from the original parts. The workshops gave names for the assembled or built-from-scratch contraptions; some stuck, others that did not. If a Cuban engineer had returned to the island after 10 years in exile, he’d no longer be an expert. In fact, despite his training, he wouldn’t recognize the contraptions growing out the hands of the more crude practice of design. Whatever he knew about the internal workings of an American technology would already have been substituted for a cruder but equally productive design practice.

This first wave of makers left a trail of invention that changed the course of interacting with technology in Cuba.

Cubans began to bring this repair-mindset home, turning their own households into laboratories. The same engineer would, during his day shift, repair the engine of a Soviet MIG15 jet fighter and, in the evening—faced with a country-wide shortage of matches—build an electric lighter out of a pen and light bulb.

Here lies some irony: The technological disobedience—which the revolution promoted as an alternative to the country’s stalled productive sector—became the most reliable resource for Cubans to navigate the inefficiencies of the state political system. Workers who had devoted their imagination and resourcefulness to keeping the revolution on its feet were then forced to employ those attributes to endure lives short on necessities.


Lack of trust in the success of the revolution turned Cuban homes into warehouses for all kinds of objects—anything that could be useful but unavailable down the line. The accumulation of products led workers to radically question industrial processes and mechanisms. They started looking at objects not with the eyes of an engineer but those of an artisan. Every object could potentially be repaired or reused, even in a different context from its original design.

Accumulation—in this case an automatic gesture—separated the object from the Western intent and lifecycle it was destined for. This is technological disobedience.

When people held onto things, they also kept the technical principles and an idea of how they fit together. In any critical moment, they would scratch their heads to conjure the exact piece that could solve the problem. When the power went out, the fan broke, or the chair snapped, the family kept an ear out for technological whispers from the patios, under the beds, or from obscure corners of rooms guarding piles of old things—either parts or in their entirety.

Seemingly insignificant things were assigned new, useful tasks. The tops of penicillin vials have become the best solution for valves on pressure cookers. Deodorant canisters proved excellent electrical switches (close the lid to turn the electricity on!). Defective fluorescent tubes now make up 3D picture frames. An old 33-rpm vinyl, cut properly, would serve as a fan blade—and its creators could reproduce copies of it. An old and deteriorated Eagle kerosene lamp reappeared when power outages became common, and sometimes a milk bottle or gas tank functioned as the lampshade. Each creation’s new appearance and new function made it unique.

Cubans in this time knew just a few brands: Caribe and Kim TVs, Orbita fans, and Aurika washing machines. The communist market of the 70s prioritized production with a social end: clones of state-commissioned chairs, for example, were distributed across the island. That people thus accumulated identical goods meant that similarly ingenious repair methods popped up throughout. Standardized metal trays in schools, for example, were appropriated by the “maker class” to create a product then not officially in existence on the island: the TV antenna.

No one’s really sure whether the idea inspired each person individually or people actively taught each other. The tray was the only accessible metal for this task—but was its secondary use an inevitable result of the mix of necessity, standard availability of goods, and creative use of them?

Another object mysteriously appeared in many houses: the kerosene lamp. Built with a cylindrical glass container—13 cm high and wide—and inside, dipped in kerosene, a wick holder made from a tube of toothpaste. The container, produced by Comecon—the now-defunct alliance of socialist countries—served dual purposes as a fuel vessel and lampshade. This transformed Cuba’s most recognizable container into its most common kerosene lamp. Necessity and standardized resources meant replicable solutions and repeated technological disobedience.

Throughout the 80s, Soviet subsidies created a decade of relative economic stability and, with that, a greater abundance of resources. Then, with the fall of the Berlin Wall and collapse of the Soviet Union, the Cuban government proclaimed a “Special Period” of extreme rationing and shortages. In 1993, a desperate new law finally permitted—with restrictions—businesses engaged in making and tinkering. A new era of creative enterprise was forced open.


At the start of the Special Period, instantaneous substitutes, objects, and provisional fixes let Cubans hold on until the end of the crisis. This built worker confidence in homebrewed construction, transport, clothing, or appliances. But these were just reparative solutions of a destroyed or insufficient material reality—and ultimately, just the waiting room for the strongest wave of revolutionary creativity.

While reinventing their lives, an unconscious mentality emerged. As a surgeon becomes desensitized to wounds, Cubans became desensitized to designed objects. They stopped seeing the original purpose of the object; instead it became a sample of parts. This is the first Cuban expression of disobedience in their relationship with objects—a growing disrespect for an object’s identity and for the truth and authority it embodies.

After opening, breaking, repairing, and using them so often at their convenience, the makers ultimately disregarded the signs that make occidental objects a unity, a closed identity. Cubans do not fear the emanating authority that brands like Sony, Swatch, or even NASA, command. If something is broken, it will be fixed—somehow. If it could even be conceived as usable to repair other objects, they might as well save it, either in parts or in its entirety. A new future awaits.

An emblematic object of this building is the “fan-phone”. An improvised repairman remembered, when his fan’s  base broke, that he had kept somewhere a broken phone from Communist Germany. He recalled it because the Orbit fan base somewhat resembled the prismatic pyramidal shape of the phone; the inspired creator was  interested not in associations or meanings but in the formal analogy based on size and structure. The repaired, rebuilt, and repurposed fan was, at the same time, an outline of the cunning abilities of the individual, a diagram of the accumulation in his house, and an image of his disobedience.

Within the process of repair, repurposing, and reinvention, three key concepts speak to an elevated degree of  subversion. Firstly, reconsidering the industrial object from an artisan’s perspective. Secondly, denying the traditional lifecycle of a Western object. And lastly, substituting traditional roles with alternative functions that  meet demand.

In the sense of restoration, repairing legitimizes an object’s qualities and allows the maker to become acquainted with an object differently. But sometimes repairing means creating a novel tool; these reparations are influenced by the more radical processes of reinvention and repurposing.

A telling case is that of a charger for non-rechargeable batteries developed in Havana in 2005. Enildo, the device’s creator, wanted to recharge batteries for his wife’s hearing aid. He could connect his new charger to an outlet and, in just 20 minutes, provide 20 days of battery life.

Like Dr. Frankenstein creating his monster, Enildo pieced together diodes from an old radio, fragments of a conductor, and little pieces of sheet metal, placing them atop a piece of plastic pulled from the radio. The new charger, stripped of its original technical purpose, summons memories of diagrams from science class. The goal was to recharge the battery; how it’s done questions the technical and commercial logic scribed upon the batteries.

The reparation, refunctionalization, and reinvention show leaps of imagination in opposition to the concepts of innovation favored by the logic of Western mass production. And each leap allowed for some small adjustment to the poverty that most of the disobedient inventors lived under.

Technological disobedience in Cuba is not just about the transgression of authority of industrial design and the way of life it projects onto its users. This practice also detours the overarching restrictions of the Cuban system. Houses all over contain rebellious inventions: lunch trays receiving television signals; chopped-up salsa LPs blowing cool air; deodorant cans turning lights on and off; and electrical components now reviving non-reusable batteries.

But technological disobedience doesn’t respect boundaries. It wiggles its way in to the social, political, and economic—realms that inspire subversion in their own rights. It keeps life flowing for those who participate. It interrupts the endless flow of Western goods and the constant push of communism on the island. And it keeps inspiring hands to create things that will make life just a little better for their owners.

*Born in Cuba in 1968, Ernesto’s work focuses on conceptual design, architecture, and theory.
For more info: "How communism turned Cuba into an island of hackers and DIY engineers"