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(506) 223-1327         Published Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2008, in Vol. 8, No. 15             E-mail us
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It's near the time to celebrate Scotland's greatest poet, Robert Burns
By Bryan Kay
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Tumblers oot fowk, git yer whisky bottle at the ready — it’s ver near time tae raise a gless tae the man behind the great chieftain o' the puddin-race.

The birthday of Robert Burns, Scotland’s national bard and most famous poet, falls on Friday, signaling the official start of Burns’ Night celebrations around the world.

The British community in Costa Rica is holding an event Feb. 15, with organizers promising a night of haggis, whiskey and Celtic music.
For those not versed in the nuances of the old Scots tongue, a tumbler is a type of whiskey glass, oot is out and fowk are folk.

The great chieftain o’ the pudding-race is a line from "Address to a Haggis" in reference to the quintessential Scottish delicacy, which normally forms the centerpiece of most celebrations.

The local event is being held at the Costa Rica Country Club in Escazú. It starts at 7 p.m., with tickets priced at 20,000 colons (about $40). Further information is available from Dave Torrance at the British Embassy, 258-2025.
Robert Burns
Robert Burns


650 teachers of English gathering here to hone skills
By Anne Clark
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

This week more than 650 English teachers from 21 countries will receive training in new teaching methods at the 24th Conferencia Nacional de Profesores de Inglés.  This conference is held at Centro Cultural Costarricense-Norteamericano in Los Yoses.

Arturo Muñoz, academic director of the centro, said that this conference is one of the most widely recognized in all of Latin America, including conferences held in Guatemala and México. 

The conference will present 110 workshops, divided into 14 sessions.  There will be 132 lecturers from 21 countries, the most ever in the history of their past 24 conferences. 

A big drawing point for the attending local teachers is the possibility to get a Costa Rican civil service certificate.  For that, they will have to attend all 14 sessions. Those who attend a minimum of eight will receive a certificate of participation from the organizing committee.

The conference begins Wednesday at 8 a.m.  Leonardo Garnier Rimolo, the Costa Rican minister of Educación Pública will speak. Also attending will be diplomats from the United States, Canada and England. Between activities, a round table discussion will be held, entitled “Empowering Tomorrow's Leaders,” beginning at 11:30 a.m.  
This discussion will be hosted by four international lecturers who will explore the challenges faced by educators as they form future generations. 

Thursday a video conference will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., titled “To make the world a better place.” 

The Rosina Bolaños Prize will be awarded Thursday afternoon to recognize excellence in English education. The prize is endorsed by the U.S. Embassy.  Last year's winner was Ana Isabel Campos Centeno from Coto.

Alongside the conference, there will be a fair showcasing the latest educational materials from publishing houses such as Oxford University Press and Cambridge University Press. 

The Centro Cultural Costarricense Norteamericano also revealed the results of a test administered from July to September to 630 professors of English supervised by the Ministerio de Educación Pública. 

This test is a requirement to decide on a temporary seat for an English teacher within the school system as well as those who wish to renew their contract with the Ministerio de Educación Pública.

Only 62.4 percent of the testers passed the written and spoken sections of the standardized test, said the centro.  The 2007 results display a slight improvement in comparison with the ones from 2006, where 53 percent  passed, the centro said.


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Our readers' opinions
He says he's unsympathetic
to the phone call victims


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I read with interest the story about BBG Communications Inc. They sure sound like rip-off artists, along with the hotels. Of course there are options, the phone cards issued by ICE are $6 for 19 minutes of calling to the United States or one can make collect calls (although they are not inexpensive).

My point is there are options and people need to be responsible for making choices. If the persons making the phone calls do not check the price of the call, they assume the risk of getting ripped off. 

This may sound unsympathetic but we open ourselves up to getting ripped off if we are not careful.  Would the people making the calls just give someone their credit card information to buy something else without knowing how much the item would cost??? Scam artist prey on people that are not careful or that assume that all people or companies are honest. 
Luis Alfaro
Vuelta de Jorco

Banco Nacional allows
transfers with credit card

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

In all fairness, BNCR finally does now make it possible to transfer money to accounts not in your favorites. Click on Incluir Favoritos in the menu on the left of the page. As a safeguard you must provide the number and security code of the credit or debit card you used when you first signed up for Internet banking.

(If you now have a different card and/or don't remember the card number you used when you sign up, follow these steps: Go to the main page in the top menu bar click on Registro en Linea, and sign up as if you were doing it for the first time, using the debit or credit card you currently have. You can even use the user name and password you are currently using.)

Then click on Incluir Favoritos. Enter your card information as well as the account you want to include and voila.

But yes, BNCR is a disaster. Here in Tamarindo there is a very small office, deeply understaffed. Wait time can exceed hours. There is a lot of business and tourist banking and even though most of the personnel are very nice and work hard, it is not enough.
Petra Schoep
Tamarindo

It's the American way
to charge what they can

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I don't see much difference between what BBG is doing and what so many North American and European land developers are doing, or, for that matter, what Tico shop owners are getting pretty good at doing.  It's just charging "whatever the market will bear."  It's the American way and what we can expect to see under U.S. style "free trade" and their so-called democracy.  Someday folks around the world will catch on to the notion that U.S. democracy is only another way of saying "out of control capitalism."

So, let's not get our shorts in a knot.  Rather, let's celebrate U.S. style democracy in all its splendor.
Rafael Antonelli
Platanillo, Pérez Zeledón

Competition eliminated
lots of bank charges


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Many of the charges listed are the same type as charged in the U.S.A. over the years. Increased banking competition forced the banks to drop or reduce the charges. Some brokerage accounts still limit the number of withdrawals within specified time periods.

When online banking first started, many banks charged a fee for using it. Again, competition forced them to drop the charges. So Costa Rica banking isn't unusual. It just needs more competition.
Art Dufresne
Santa Ana

No political correctness
for nationality tags


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
 
Don't fall into the political correctness trap, A.M. Costa Rica. Do what you are good at: reporting the news, complete with all the details, including the countries where criminals come from.

Instead of the honorable Colombian complaining about A.M. Costa Rica mentioning that Colombian criminals come from Colombia, he ought to chastise his many  fellow compatriots for not being what he is: honorable. If he is not up to that, maybe he ought to hang his head in shame for being a Colombian. Need he be reminded that a lot of criminals do indeed come from Colombia?

If good guys, whose origin is Colombia, or Nicaragua, or the U.S., or Bangladesh, or Costa Rica, do good things, Mr. Honorable Colombian would have no objections if their countries were mentioned, now would he? So, why should he object, if bad guys' countries are? Because he wants you, A.M. Costa Rica, to play the "political correctness" game, along with all the other media that has surrendered their journalistic honor to a totally bogus code of ethics. Tell it like it is.
Robert Nahrgang S.
Escazú  

Reformed littlerbug says
solution is publicity campaign


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

The garbage and prolific billboards are a problem in Costa Rica. But I am old enough to remember when the very same things were going on in U.S.A. big time.

It was nothing to throw bags of trash or empty beer and pop bottles out of your moving car window onto the streets. We poured our used motor oil, old paints, and all kinds of toxins down the sewers. We burned our trash in wire containers on Saturday afternoons along with the autumn leaves and never thought about what it was doing to the air we breath.

Look in any empty lot back then, and maybe even now you can find the same items mentioned in the article. All the things that we complain that the Ticos are doing, the people in the U.S. were doing and never giving it a second thought. It wasn't until the states and federal government started a movement  to stop littering that the masses started to change their habits.

I am a recovering litterbug, and I know that it will take time for the Tico litterbugs to realize that the problem is theirs and not someone elses. Some Ticos strive to be just like the neighbor next door (U.S.) but I hope they won't follow all of our old bad habits.  I hope that the government will copy the "Don't be a Litterbug" campaign. It's not perfect but it is working.

When the dogs rip open my trash bag or my neighbors', I go out and re-bag mine and theirs. I am seeing others in the neighborhood doing the same, so maybe the message is getting through.
 
Unfortunately the whole world is creating so much trash and garbage that we are running out of landfills to put it in. We used to think, and some still do, that what ever we throw into the streets, rivers, fields, or ocean, nature will some how recycle it. Not so.   
Gene Foltuz
San Pablo de Heredia

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday,  Jan. 22, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 15


nova version


A guest editorial
Costa Rica will have to pay the price for its failure to act

By Chris Walraven
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The reality of the current global market place places a burden on the future of Costa Rica. The current situation should not be surprising because as early as August of 2006 the upcoming real estate decline here was obvious.

The current situation in the United States means over $100 billion in write offs in the financial sector and more to come in the housing market. The exodus of expats to Costa Rica and their willingness to pay inflated prices will leave many people financially strapped for years to come. The consumer credit card and automotive loan sector is also seeing signs of great weakness in both markets.

The current situation isn’t just limited to this continent, but, as Monday shows, the global market place is being affected. Markets around the world are tumbling. India’s market is down 7.4 percent. Hong Kong Hang Seng index plunged 5.5 percent. Japan’s Nikkei index dropped 3.9 percent. China Composite index went down 5.1 percent.

The European FTSE 100 went down 5.48 percent. France's CAC 40 index is off 6.83 percent, and finally the DAX closed down 7.16 percent.

This wasn’t a great day for the world stock markets. The optimist hopes for many better days ahead, but the reality is challenging.

The reality isn’t easy to accept since it changes so many dreams and goals, and it’s sometimes difficult to accept or listen to reason. This is the time expats must wake from their dream and face facts, and those facts start with unabated consumer spending. This spending isn’t new, and the financial sector relies heavily on it continuing because it represents two-thirds of the United States economy. The problem is that the consumer is tapped out, and this has been known for sometime. Over the last several years consumer spending has outstripped individual income. 

The recession isn’t going to be easy, but its time for a correction. The U.S. Federal Reserve must hold inflation by holding interest rates and raising the rate slowly. This also will help strengthen the already weakend dollar.

Lowering interest rates now will only hurt the dollar, cause inflation, and delay the recession. There isn’t a silver lining for Costa Rica in this evolving story, and actually it’s going to be a very intense next couple of years.

The reality is Costa Rica failed to take advantage of numerous opportunities to develop its potential over the last 30-plus years. The reality is that Costa Rica had the potential to be 20 years ahead of Cancun, and to do it with environmental care and thoughtful pre-planning. Consider the famous Santa Elena project in Guanacaste. Now it is part of Parque Nacional Santa Rosa. The project was halted and the land expropriated to make way for an extended national park. The issue of protected territory is a wonderful concept for Costa Rica, but the government resources are limited, and today poaching is taking place on what once was Santa Elena. Costa Rica is extremely lucky to have several wealthy American individuals and U.S. foundations that in the past have provided millions of dollars to help monitor, staff and protect places such as the Osa Peninsula.

The country realized that its small size and its third-world status made it impossible to grow without private money to develop its infrastructure. Thus, Costa Rica approached the idea of using concessions to develop the roads, airports, sea ports and prisons. The problem is politics continue to get in the way of progress.

A great example is the highway from San José to Caldera and the 30 years it has taken to reach a signed contract that is truly being implemented. Those living here know 
stock market decline


that several false starts to this project happened prior to this 2008 contract. The prison contract several years ago in the Provincia de Limón also has left a bad taste in the mouth of potential bidders, along with Harkin Oil's ouster and the staggering airport concession. These delays cost Costa Rica precious time in protecting the environment, creating greater income for both the country and its businesses, and causing a return on the investment not just in a financial sense but a better quality of life for the people of Costa Rican. 

This above highway example and the delay of 30 years hampered growth because it limited the ability to provide a fast and efficient way to transport commerce from its port of Caldera and provided a roadblock to the all-important tourism on which Costa Rica depends.

The environmental impact of Costa Rica and pressures that are placed on this beautiful country are amazing. The country allows over 90 percent of its waste to enter its streams and rivers untreated and then the sewage is allowed to flow freely to the Pacific. These issues aren’t induced by foreigners but existed prior to the Gringo invasion, and now expats are contributing. Most visitors aren’t aware that Costa Rica is a  Sanitary Sewer free zone!

The country will continue to struggle with recession knocking on its door. With recession entering the picture, tax revenue will drop. The two most notable are the import tax and taxes charged on entry or new sales of vehicles. The effort to maintain the government jobs and pensions will truly lead to serious issues in this prolonged cycle.

The forces are against Costa Rica in 2008, and crime will continue to increase due to economic factors. Costa Rica for years has seen higher inflation than its Latin America neighbors, and this pressure like so many in 2008 will continue to burden its people. The issue of the dollar versus the colon is minor. The dollar is weaker against major currency, but with a global recession and the likelihood that the Federal Reserve doesn’t cut interest rates, the dollar is a much safer and better bet than the colon.

There are positives for Costa Rica, including its democracy, its prior lead in Central America, and the large operations of well known multinational corporations who chose Costa Rica. These provide thousands of jobs that have helped give the people of Costa Rica and all the residents a better life.


U.S. markets brace for even more declines based on early overseas trading
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Stock prices in Asia and Australia fell sharply Tuesday in early trading, following Monday's decline in shares worldwide on fears of a U.S. recession.

All stock price indexes in Asia opened down. Benchmark indexes in Australia, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan showed prices down by about 4 to nearly 6 percent in morning trading.

Stock prices dropped Monday between 3 and 7 percent in major European, Asian and Latin American markets in some of the biggest single day losses in years.

Billionaire American investor and philanthropist George Soros warned Monday that the world is facing its most serious financial crisis since World War II.

The head of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, called the situation serious, and said all
countries in the developed world are suffering from the slowdown in growth in the United States.

President George Bush has proposed a $145 billion stimulus plan to prevent a recession. But the head of the International Monetary Fund said falling foreign markets are evidence that investors are skeptical about the plan's potential for success.

U.S. stocks have dropped in recent weeks over worries about tightening credit, high levels of consumer debt, soaring oil prices, and sinking real estate markets.

The proposed stimulus package announced last week would lower taxes to encourage consumer spending to try to prevent a recession — defined as a broad decline in a nation's economy over a period of at least six months.

U.S. markets were closed for a national holiday Monday, but stock futures trading indicates further losses are expected when markets reopen Tuesday.


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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday,  Jan. 22, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 15

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Evil spells could be a motive for murder in south Costa Rica
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man died a violent death Sunday, and the Judicial Investigating Organization claims that his parents participated in the murder. The case is cloaked in mystery and even witchcraft.

Dead is a 24-year-old man with the last name of Bejarano. He died in Alto Copey de Limón en Coto Brus, an area that is believed to be within an Indian reserve.

The Judicial Investigating Organization said that four persons had a discussion with the man shortly before his death. Investigators characterized the discussion as
 religious, however, unofficial sources say that the four believed that Bejarano was casting evil spells.

Two men, 24 and 32, are being held for the crime. Agents said death came from a severe beating, but later said that he was attacked with garrotes. That word in Spanish means both a club and a method of execution by strangulation, so the cause of death could not be clarified Monday.

The body was being examined at the Judicial Morgue.

The man's parents have fled, said investigators. Their role was to prevent other persons from coming to the aid of the man as he was being killed, said agents.


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Democrats here prepare for their role
in picking convention delegates

Special to A.M. Costa Rica


U.S. citizens living in Costa Rica who have not already voted absentee in their state primaries can still do so in the Democratic Global Primary operated by the international organization Democrats Abroad.

To vote on-line or by mail or fax during the week of Feb. 5 to 12, Democrats who are not already members of Democrats Abroad must join by Jan. 31 at www.VoteFromAbroad.org. 

To vote in person, citizens can come to the drop-in voting center at the Aurola Holiday Inn in San José on Tuesday, Feb. 5, (“Super Tuesday), from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Voters can join Democrats Abroad of Costa Rica and fill out a paper ballot.  Hotel reception will provide the location.

Voters should bring their U.S. passports or other proof of U.S. citizenship and voting address (where registered or lived most recently) in the United States, said the organization.

The worldwide election results will determine the allocation of Democrats Abroad’s 22 delegates to the Democratic National Convention.

The U.S. presidential election will take place on Nov. 4.  All U.S. citizens living in Costa Rica can register to vote absentee and to request their local voting district in the U.S. to send ballots to their Costa Rica address, which must be returned to the U.S. by mail.

This request can be handled at www.VoteFromAbroad.org. On-line voting is not an option in federal elections. 

For further information about voting in the presidential primaries here in Costa Rica, those interested can contact Paul Kloes at 215-4254 or e-mail
 cr.democratsabroad@yahoo.com. 

To learn more about registering to vote absentee in the November general elections, those interested can contact Pat or Willy Piessens at 282-5365 or e-mail dew2dew@racsa.co.cr.

Academic agreement signed

 By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica signed an agreement Monday with the prestigious Spanish Universidad de Salamanca to create a Costa Rica chair at the institution. This will be a social science position within the Instituto Interuniversitario de Iberoamérica, said officials.

Manuel Alcántara, vice rector of the Spanish university, signed for his institution.  Óscar Arias Sánchez signed as a witness. The agreement also will facilitate visits by Costa Rican university professors to Salamanca.


Series of thefts at construction sites in area results in the arrest of one suspect
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A series of thefts at various construction sites in the metropolitan area has investigators looking for a group of men, said officials Monday.

The Judicial Investigation Organization has been investigating a scheme operation in which a group of men pose as workers and take expensive tools from construction operations, said officials. After a three month investigation, agents arrested one suspect, identified as Jorge Monge Sala, 23, Monday.
According to agents, the scheme works like this: A group of men arrive at a construction site and tell the guard they were sent by the head engineer to take away the tools. The site may be a house, office building or business.

Then they pretend to have the engineer on the phone, who tells the guard to give all the tools to the group of men.

Some 15 cases have been reported, and the arrested individual is a suspect in at least five cases, said officials.  Thousands of dollars worth of expensive tools have been taken said officials.


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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 15


Sunny days in San Jose complemented by free concerts
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The hot dry days are being put to good cultural use by the Museos del Banco Central with a series of outdoor concerts in the middle of the downtown area.

Hundreds of shoppers stopped to lean over the balcony in Plaza de la Cultura Saturday, when the Costa Rican singer MAF and her band played a sunny set of pop tunes outside the doors of the museum.

Although the series is named 'Conciertos en las gradas', fewer people sat to on the steps outside the Museo de Oro than stood around the edges, looking down at the stage.

Onlookers were enthusiastic about the music, in spite of the singer's personal lack of the ability to dance. She has recently released her debut album, Viaje Cosmico, for which she was recognised as 2007's revelationary interpretive artist by Costa Rica's music association, Asociacion de Compositores y Autores Musicales de Costa Rica.

The series of open-air concerts featuring national artists has become an annual feature of the Museos del Banco Central calendar.

An alternative offering of rock trip-hop is up next on Feb. 9 at 2 p.m., played by group Parque en el espacio. The band recorded a live CD in San Pedro's Jazz Café during 2006, called Hello Hello.

MAFconcert
Museos del Banco Central Image
Saturday shoppers watch the Costa Rican singer MAF play the first of a series of three concerts

Miriam Jaraquín and Blues Latino will bring piano and accordion, flute and saxophone to the stage at midday on March 2., with an acoustic jazzy sound.

The final concert of the series will be on March 29., with trio Villegas playing some classic Spanish rock from 2 p.m.

Art Galleries ....

Imagen V show has a few gems but a pack of clinkers, too

videoartshowNew media art is always a bit hit and miss with the potential to come across as a foundationless piece of pretension if it is not done well.

The Bienal Iberoamericana Inquieta Imagen V, a competition for video artists from across Latin America, is a good example of this, containing a few pieces that engage well with the subject and make the most of their medium, but many that leave the viewer cold.

Most of the works are video projections, some as short as a pistol shot and the flight of birds and some as long as a didactic letter that teaches about identity, isolation and fuschia flowers.

Other media range from photography and animation to Internet blogs and ancient video games.

Out of almost 200 entries from 13 different countries, 37 were chosen to fill the spaces of the Museo de Arte y Diseño, and some of them leave a viewer wondering what was so awful about the rejected works.

The vast majority of entrants were Costa Ricans, and works were chosen for show to create a panorama of Spanish-American works that is accessible to both the public who have engaged with technolgical art before and those who are encountering it for the first time.

Five works won cash prizes, including an undeserving triptec of photographs showing poor Nicaraguans searching through a dump to find articles that give some beauty to their lives.

Not an original idea nor interestingly photographed, the series was praised for using the presence of children to humanize a degrading situation.

One projection's entire focus is a sequence of slightly blurred changing Christmas scenes, seemingly chosen only for its fittingness to the season, and several others that were too bland to make any sort of impression on the memory.

Read more - click here


Mistaken identity? No such thing, says new exhibition

historiaoficialCosta Rica is a land of volatile volcanoes, orchids, coffee fincas, Catholicism and Ticos.

Or you could say it's a country of wide seashores, football stadiums, fast food restaurants and beach towns overtaken by Gringos.

Some are clichéd symbols of a tourist nation, while others are part of the country's changing culture, but all are involved in Museo de Arte Costarricense's new exhibition that challenges viewers to reconsider their own perceptions of the nation.

Read more - click here

Oriental engravings brighten up Semana
Japonesa
in Calderón Guardia

Japanese artOriental engravings that have travelled half way across the world from Japan have ended their journey in Museo Calderón Guardia, where an exhibition of 75 works was inaugurated Thursday.

Subjects from autumn trees to high-rise apartments chart the growing influence of the West and development on post-war Japan.

Read more - click here

Banco Central exhibit brings out the animal
in art

free standing art 200The Museos del Banco Central de Costa Rica is running "La Animalística en el Arte Costarricense" in its temporary 
exhibition space below
the Plaza de la Cultura. The collection presents the varying uses and depictions of animals by Costa Rican artists throughout history.

The exhibition signage placed at the entrance said that the presented works depict animals from two perspectives.

Read more - click here

Festivals ...

In review...

Young rockers forge cultural links, even if no one was there to see it

defectobandCross-cultural dialogue is not confined to the United Nations. 

It can occur anywhere, with anyone, in any medium and Quepos proved this last weekend at Costa Bazooka, an international music festival.  18 bands from the United States, Costa Rica and Mexico jammed until five o´clock in the morning, beginning Saturday at 2 p.m. The virgin music festival is the brainchild of Bruce LaPierre, a concert promotor from Boston.  He recruited many of the American bands himself and said, "The best part about this whole thing are the friendships with the Costa Rican musicians.  We´re intertwined now."

Mauni Villa, a 21-year-old guitarist of San Jose´s own Akasha, also emphasized this. "We´ve made a lot of friends," he said.

The talent was young, fresh, unfettered with record deals and excited about the opportunity to play an international scene. 

It wasn't uncommon to hear the exclamation "We just got our passports!" emanating from backstage.

Over half of the band members of Street Circus Symphony, from Savannah, Georgia, and one member of Endway from Boston, Massachusetts, received expedited passports in 24 hours. 

"We didn´t actually believe we were going to be playing in Costa Rica until we were on the bus here from San Jose," explained Ben Bowne, bassist for Street Circus Symphony.

The musicians´ collective excitement was palpable.  Most of the bands began playing as soon as they hit ground in Costa Rica and weren´t planning to stop until they left.

Gino V., guitarist and vocalist from Before the Fall, said after their warm-up performance, "We did a show in San Jose, we did one in Quepos last night and we have another one in San Jose in a couple days."

LaPierre explained that the collection of bands had
already played eight shows in the week they had been in Costa Rica.

"We´re going to a bar after this and we´re going to play all night long!" proclaimed Bowne from Street Circus.

To read more click HERE!


Upcoming...
January
Palmares fiestas provide family fun, and plenty of beer

The new year arrives, and Palmares gets ready to party.

This year makes no exception, with the official countdown to the start of Fiestas Palmares reaching the 00:00 mark at 1 p.m. Jan. 17.

A line-up of international music acts, traditional spectacles and sports events usually pales into significance behind the main activity of drinking as much as humanly possible, turning the streets of the town into carnage for almost two weeks.

Read more, click here

Welsh festival brings stars of the page to Colombia

There is a town in Wales that is full of books. On every corner of every cobbled street there is a store with second-hand books spilling from its wooden shelves, and often several on the stretch in between.

Each year, this little town in the foothills of the Black Mountains — usually a haven of peace for a quiet cream tea down by the river — becomes a pilgrimage for the literary, intellectuals and people who just love a good read as it holds Britain's greatest festival of books, the Hay Festival.

Read more - click here

February
First International Blues Festival

Texas blues bands are heading down to Santa Ana for an afternoon of live music. BBQ's and cold beers will accompany artists including Smokin Joe Kubek & Bnois King and Robbie Clarke & the Live Wire Blues Band.

Two stages at Motorpsychos Bar and Grill will host a total of seven bands during the afternoon of Feb. 9. Tickets cost $25 and can be found by contacting www.bluesdevilsband.com.

Identidad Art Festival

Fifty artists will have the enviable job of displaying their work on a warm beach in Guanacaste this February, as part of the Identidad Art Festival.

Hosted by Playa Conchal Reserve, the festival aims to revive the cultural values of the area, promoting local art as a tourist attraction.

Painters, sculptors and musicians are all welcome to participate and show off Costa Rican talent to the high season tourists during Feb. 2-4.

 Interested parties should visit the site www.myspace.com/identidadartfest.
Food...

Festive season proves troublesome even for established restaurant

vealBeing a chef in a busy kitchen must be a pretty stressful job, but around Christmas stress is something any successful restaurant should factor in as inevitable.

On a second visit to well-reputed French restaurant Le Chandelier, it soon became obvious that the staff were poorly equipped for the onslaught of Christmas party diners on a Tuesday night, leaving the usually decent food to deteriorate into a procession of almost inedible starters and bland entrees.

Set in an old San Pedro house with brick ceilings and wooden beams that was converted into a restaurant around 15 years ago by Swiss owner Claude Dubuis, Le Chandelier purports to offer French cuisine that has been developed over generations of experience.

Click here to read the full review

 


A great meal is not all in the presentation

musslesandfondue120407With a vaulted glass ceiling, palm trees lining the pathway and posh lighting, one would not expect Saga restaurant to be settled behind a dull parking lot in Escazú.

Although this restaurant may look out of place, it doesn't deviate much from the norm in Escazú, an area many would classify as suburban sprawl.


The majority of the cuisine at Saga seems to fit with the setting: classy presentation, yet lacking any profound flavors. Although the restaurant boasts itself as an “international food restaurant” on its Web site, much of the inspired cuisine is lacking the depth which would be found in authentic dishes. There is no direct theme and the menu seems somewhat scattered.

Click here to read the full review


Dramatic Arts...

Minotaur theme wins contemporary dance festival

bull headed manThe search for happiness within ourselves rather than in superficial external objects was the theme of the winning dance at the 24th Festival de Coreografos this weekend.  A bull-headed dancer took the centre of attention of Antonio Corrales' piece “Solo sueña un minotauro,” presented in front of an international board of judges Sunday.

The judges said that the composition stood out from the other nine contemporary dance acts for its "good choreographic approach, good line, good idea, excellent lighting design,  continuity with symbols and finally poetry.”

Corrales was both the choreographer and the dancer of the piece, which is the first entry he has made into the competition as a choreographer.

Four other acts were also chosen to participate in the opening night of next year's festival: “Imágenes imaginadas para imaginar, serie I,” by Rogelio López, “Mil kilómetros” by Nandayure Harley, “MIA ZOI,” by Iréni Stamou and “4 a.m.” by  Silvia Ortiz and David Hernández.







Symphonic Conductor is a big supporter of music education

A mugging at gunpoint could have robbed Costa Rica's Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional of its new conductor just as he was beginning the job, but the conductor, Chosei Komatsu,
did not turn his back on San José, and now the next generation of musicians is feeling the benefit.

Eating ice cream in the same hotel outside which he was mugged in 2004, the sweet-toothed conductor recounts how the media assumed that he would flee the country immediately.

"I told them I would fulfill my job," he said. "Musical education conductor Chosei Kamatsu can help to abate the rising violence in this country. I want to put violins instead of guns into the hands of the children."

Last month Komatsu saw a big step forward, as the government of his home country, Japan, finally agreed to a $500,000 donation to the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional and the Instituto Nacional de Musica.

The money, which Komatsu asked for when he was appointed in 2003, has gone towards replacing 25-year-old tubas and other important instruments for the orchestra, as well as getting better facilities for the educational institute.

Komatsu said he knows that it is important to get children interested from a young age, as he first became determined to follow a career in conducting as a 4-year-old watching Austrian conductor Herbert von Karajan in action on television.

Read all of our interview with Chosei Komatsu here
Books ...

New book dwells on the social aspects of food

Food is not just a selfish pleasure or a way to stifle hunger, but is central to the evolution of art, according to a new book published by Museos del Banco Central.

Artworks by Costa Rican painters are the main content of the hardback book, “Imagenes para Comer,” which follows the representation of food in art since still life painting became popular in the Renaissance.

Full-color pictures of both traditional and modern works are far more common than recipes, as the author Marjorie Ross only provides seven recipes within the book.

All are traditional Costa Rican dishes showing influences from different sections of the community, such as corn fritters, white beans and chorizo and fruit salad.

The book focuses on the meanings that food has within society, and how these are portrayed by art.

Click here to read more


imagenesparacomer

Front cover of art cook book

Internet vs. live tournament poker

Should you play a live tournament solely by feel, or instead, take a strict mathematical approach and look to play in any +EV (positive expected value) situation?

This discussion recently came up on a radio show called Poker Road between a young, mathematically-oriented internet player and one of the hosts of the show who opts to play by feel.

At one point, the internet player said to the host with much disdain, “You just don’t know how to think about poker properly.”  He then went on to state his case in favor of math-based poker, a philosophy that’s shared by many other internet players.

Though it’s clear that many of today’s internet young guns dissect the game merely from a mathematical perspective, they don’t sufficiently consider the people part of the game when they play in live tournaments. 

Obviously, you can’t see your opponents when playing online.  That makes it difficult to get a read on your competition and to exploit their weaknesses.  So, to be successful, online players tend to rely on their math skills and think about the game in terms of +EV. 
 
And although +EV is not a terrible way to approach a live poker tournament, it isn’t quite enough.  In a live tourney, there are other considerations in addition to pure mathematics that should be factored into your decisions.

Here’s a list of several important factors that I find essential for live tournament poker success.  Internet players – take note.
 
Table Composition
Is your table full of weak players or is the competition strong?  Answer that question and you’ll be able to exploit situations where donkeys are present, and to make the proper adjustments necessary to beat tougher opponents.

At an easier table, avoid high risk situations.  It’s much better to wait patiently for lower-risk opportunities that will eventually appear.

At a tougher table, you’ll be forced to take more chances and will need to employ a more mathematical approach.
 
Position
Where are the big stacks?  Where are the tough players?

If the big-stacked sharks are seated behind you, look to take on thinner +EV situations, and play them aggressively.



Conversely, if you have weak-tight players to your left, take the safer approach and try to win a lot of smaller pots.

Stage of the Tournament 
Your competitors will likely vary their style of play depending on the stage of a tournament.  Adjust your game to those changes.  It’s common, for example, to see players take on a much more conservative approach as the money bubble nears.  That’s a good time to kick up your level of aggression in order to exploit this observed tendency.

Tournament Structure

The rate at which the blinds increase should also influence your play; the faster the blinds escalate the less patient you should be.  Conversely, in a slow-paced tournament structure, pass up marginal situations and look to be more selective about the risks that you take.
 
Mental State of Opponents
It’s always important to focus on your opponents’ state of mind.  Look for fatigue, desperation, confidence, and patience.  Remember that a player’s mental state will usually be affected after he loses a big pot.  Use that to your advantage.
 
Your Table Image
Be aware that your opponents are always watching.  What have they seen you do recently?  What do you think that they think it all means?  If you limp into pots, do you think they’re fearful of strength, or do they assume that you’re playing a garbage hand?
 
You can never discount the value of mathematical analysis in poker.  But to be truly successful in live tournament play, you must start to think about these other considerations even before the first hand is dealt.


Visit www.cardsharkmedia.com/book.html for information about Daniel Negreanu’s new book, "Hold’em Wisdom for All Players."
© 2007 Card Shark Media.  All rights reserved.


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