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(506) 223-1327         Published Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2008, in Vol. 8, No. 16             E-mail us
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French couple are theft victims in north San José
By Elise Sonray
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Someone punctured the tire of a French couples' rental car and a thief later stole their suitcases in a heavily traveled section of San José Tuesday, they said.

“I thought I heard something when we were stopped at a stop light,” said victim Chantal Pince. A little later on, a man flagged the couple down to tell them they had a flat tire. They were only about a minute away from their hotel, Hotel Vesuvio, in north San José.

Ms. Pince and her husband, Gerald Bielawski, arrived in the country Jan. 8 and were on their way back to San José after a tour in the north, they said.

As they pulled over to change the tire, a man came up to the small four-by-four and quickly removed two suitcases from the trunk of the vehicle while the couple were changing the tire. Then he jumped into another car and sped away, said Ms. Pince. The couple said they did not see what the thief's vehicle looked like.

The hotel notified the municipal police who soon arrived, said Arturo Campos Céspedes, a municipal police officer. The police had trouble communicating with the couple, who did not speak much Spanish. The officers on the scene were not sure if the couple were from the United States or France, said Campos or what exactly had
frenchman a victim of theft
A.M. Costa Rica/Elise Sonray
Gerald Bielawski, victim of theft

been stolen, said another police officer.

“I am really upset,” said Ms. Pince as tears welled up in her eyes. One officer who spoke some English, attempted to explain that the couple needed to file a complaint at the judicial offices.

“What do we do?” asked Bielawski. “Our passports and all of our papers were stolen.” Later, Campos managed to call the French Embassy.

The thief stole the couple's cameras, passports, credit cards, $60 in cash, and clothing. Bielawski retained a shoulder bag which had some money in it, he said. They will stay until the end of their vacation, Jan. 25, they said.  


Banco Nacional says it levies a fee on U.S.checks
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Employees at Banco Nacional de Costa Rica confirmed Monday that the bank is charging $60 to collect every U.S. dollar check over $1,000 deposited by a customer.

The state bank routinely has been refusing to accept as deposits U.S. dollar checks for more than $1,000, but no one appeared to be able to say why.
Reporters have been seeking such answers from the bank's administration since before Christmas.

An employee said Monday that this has been the bank's policy for about six months. Some readers in the Santa Ana area complained about the practice months ago, but the bank has been spotty in following its own rules.

Typically bank cashiers do what they are told but infrequently know why. Monday a bank employee put the mystery to rest. Ivette Arroyo, a platform customer service worker, said that the bank would not accept for deposit U.S. checks of more than $1,000. Instead, the customer has to sign an agreement to allow the bank to collect the check. This service is $60 regardless of the amount of the check over $1,000, she said.

She agreed that the bank charge represented a surcharge of 6 percent on a $1,000 check. She said that the bank has incurred problems with U.S. checks that did not clear, but she did not have specifics.
Banco Nacional freezes checks drawn on U.S. accounts for at least 30 days and makes use of the money or float during that time period. Even foreign checks clear in just a few days now, so the bank makes money while holding customers' cash.

A supervisor agreed that the bank is facing complaints and possible Sala IV constitutional court action over the lengthy period during which funds are frozen and that the $60 charge is being applied instead.

By contrast, the bank charges 3 percent to transfer funds from Costa Rica to Nicaragua, a service used frequently by foreigners here.

Banco de Costa Rica does not appear to have such a policy on collecting U.S. checks. However, that banking entity is facing uncertain times because the board of directors accepted the resignation of Carlos Fernández Román, the general manager, Monday.

Both state banks are believed to have lost substantial amounts of customer money to illegal Internet transfers. The banks claim the thefts were by computer crooks who managed somehow to obtain passwords of customers, but some aspects of the thefts point to inside jobs.

Uncertainty also reins within the banks because the Arias administration is encouraging a merger of at least some operations, perhaps through a third party offering certain services.


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Our reader's opinion
Costa Rica still is option
for many coming here

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I could not help but respond to the article concerning the impending collapse of the Costa Rican economy as a result of the subprime "meltdown" in the States, and would like to make a few comments:

1. firstly, economics is a notoriously inexact "science," and no one can predict how the Costa Rica economy will react to the crisis in the States. One thing is certain though, and that is that reactions to the problems will be not the same. 

2. I am in the real estate business and see people, buyers and sellers everyday, and am in contact with many more daily on the Internet. Here is what I am seeing:

• instead of running away from Costa Rica, I am seeing more wanting to leave the States and move here.  Costa Rica is becoming a haven instead of just a short break.

• the "baby boomers" will be even more affected by a slowdown in the economy and be forced to seek alternatives. Costa Rica is one of the best alternatives around.

• I am seeing more and more people look to Costa Rica as an investment alternative as other traditional investments sour. 

• Costa Rica's real estate market and economy is nothing more than a reflection of basic supply and demand. And demand far outstrips supply at this point. Remember, Costa Rica is smaller than most U.S. cities and the number of buyers far exceeds the sellers.  This is economics at its most basic level. There are still, as the press likes to remind us, still pockets of rising real estate prices even in the States. Sure, there will be select areas where prices will probably fall here, but those will be a small minority.
 
3. I fully agree that changes need to be made in Costa Rica with regards to its reactions to crime, its attitude toward sewage and pollution and, yes, even streamlining its often unwieldy bureaucracy. But those of us who live here are seeing many of these changes slowly taking place now.   I believe that if too many of these changes occur, Costa Rica will not be the same, and it will be a poor cousin or distant relative of Uncle Sam.  As much as the bad traffic and casual attitudes of many here frustrate me, I also accept that Costa Rica would not be "my home" if it were not that way.
 
Let's not be in too much of a hurry to kiss off Costa Rica as a potential casualty of the problems that exist in the States.  Instead, let's look at Costa Rica as we have always looked at it, a country with problems but also a country where literally millions vacation and regard as "I wish I could live in Costa Rica all the time instead of just a week or two a year."
 
I have lived in Costa Rica for several years now and have become frustrated at some of the problems here and how slowly changes take place. BUT the reasons for my move to Costa Rica are still the same, and the qualities that Costa Rica possesses that drew me to her in the first place, are still the same, a simpler way of life, the friendliness of the people here, and its unending beauty.

I do not live here with my eyes shut and see things wrong here as others do too. But for me...the glass is still half full rather than half empty. 
Randy Berg
Grecia

Nation must protect tourists
despite what readers  say


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

With all due respects to the gentlemen who seem to think that guests in our country deserve no compassion whatsoever, no matter HOW badly they get ripped off, and have nobody to blame but themselves when it happens, "Buyer Beware" doesn't really cut it as a national marketing slogan for tourism!

Costa Rica already gets enough bad press as it is over things like crime and infrastructure problems that don't have short term solutions. So when especially slimy deals like this one come to light that can have a negative impact on tourism, and the government CAN do something about it, the hammer should come down hard and fast on the parties responsible as a way of demonstrating that the welfare of our visitors is important to us!

In my mind, this definitely wouldn't qualify as "getting one's shorts in a knot." (How extraordinarily CYNICAL of you, Mr. Antonelli!) Tourism is the big dog on the block in the Costa Rican economy. If the dog attracts ticks, you don't blame the dog, you SQUASH the little blood suckers!

The real question isn't whether or not touristas need to be light on their feet while on the road. They do, as Mr. Alfaro points out, and that should go without saying. On the other hand, when you order a beer in a bar, past experience and COMMON SENSE dictate that your cerveza shouldn't cost THIRTY DOLLARS. The BBG deal is a government/ICE sanctioned, . . .  conspiracy to defraud tourists, and should be dealt with as such.

What really piques my curiosity is how did such an obviously odious deal get approved in the first place? Can you say "PAYOFF?" I'll bet my last colon that this story is far from being over, assuming of course that it doesn't get swept under the rug by the very people whose palms got greased in the process.
Dean Barbour  
Manuel Antonio

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday,  Jan. 23, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 16


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He's spent 40 years documenting changes in land use here
By Helen Thompson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Forty years of living in the jungle, moving between secluded forestry stations and research labs, has led Louisiana resident
Armond Joyce
Armond Joyce
and NASA veteran Armond Joyce to write a book about the changing uses of land in Costa Rica.

After winning a presitgious Fulbright scholarship in 1998, he came back to Costa Rica to revisit forest sites that he worked on over three decades earlier as a graduate student. 

Some of the earliest satellite technology available was used in 1966 to take arial photographs of Costa Rica's countryside, and the
book compares these black and white shots with up-to-date images.

Joyce insists the book, entitled “Land use change in Costa Rica, 1966 – 2006, as influenced by social economic, political and environmental factors,” is not just for scientists, but will interest anyone that wants to learn a little bit more about Costa Rica's history and environment.

Peace Corps work in Ecuador during the 1960s sparked Joyce's interest in forestation issues, and he started looking for a way to come back to the tropics as a graduate student.

This search brought him to Costa Rica in 1966, as part of a study with the Tropical Science Center.

He tramped all over the country, measuring vegetation in 46 sites chosen to represent all the biodiversity that Costa Rica has to offer.

“We chose the sites according to the 12 different life zones in
Costa Rica — from the hot plains up to the highest mountains, mainly placed in the primary forest that each of the places has to offer,” said Joyce by telephone from the United States Tuesday.

Although the people he was working with had no intention of continuing to monitor the sites, Joyce later realized that they would provide the perfect basis for comparison with new documentation.

After 28 years spent as a NASA research scientist, conducting four more studies into Costa Rican land use, he was back to take more aerial photos, and to publish his insight into a country that had become his second home.

“Aerial photography is not a perfect technique — from that distance you can't tell if a field is a potato field or a corn field, so you do have to go into the countryside to check,” Joyce said.

“What is clear is that major changes have come in the type of exports. When I was first here, ranching was the big thing, with a lot of meat being exported. That's shifted to pineapples, bananas and coconuts.”

He also praised the government's attempts to protect forest, with around 30 percent of the country's land protected by reserves.

Joyce is currently working on a project with Universidad de Costa Rica, developing an unmanned aerial vehicle that will be able to take air photos for the study of environmental change.

Although he's spent a lot of time in the remote field stations of La Selva, Las Cruces and Palo Verde, he says that he loves every part of Costa Rica equally. His second home is located in Tibas, just north of San Jose.

Paperback copies of the book both with and without an accompanying CD of images, can be found at various outlets and online at www.luluc.com.


Puerto Viejo residents issue an ultimatum to local mayor
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A letter demanding answers was sent to the mayor of Talamanca Monday as part of a local fight against the construction of a $40 million marina at Puerto Viejo.

If no reply is received from Mayor Rugelis Morales Rodríguez within 10 days, the residents, supported by the Asociación Preservacionista de Flora y Fauna Silvestre, threaten to file an appeal with the Sala IV constitutional court, asking magistrates to pronounce the marina project illegal.

Many expatriate residents of the small Caribbean town were shocked when plans for the huge project became news in October.

Two national parks frame the proposed site of the project on Playa Negra beach just north of the town, causing
concern that the increase in pollution and waste products could affect the protected coral and marine life.  Residents sent Rodriquez a letter in October, asking him to hold a meeting in which he would clarify the situation and present them with details like the project's exact size and how it will affect the local environment.

The organizers, which include the Asociación Talamanqueña de Ecoturismo y Conservación, never received a reply, they said.

Initial plans for the marina, which will be developed by Grupo Caribeño Nacional S.A., show 398 boats being able to dock at one time.

A release by the Asociación Preservacionista de Flora y Fauna Silvestre claims that the project will damage more than 18.5 hectares of living reef, which currently protects the coast form erosion.


Nation's exports show a 13.4 percent increase for 2007
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The commerce ministry reported Tuesday that the country's 2007 exports reached $9.3 billion. That is a 13.4 percent increase over the $8.2 billion reported in 2006. All sectors of the export economy showed increases, according to the report. Once again, integrated circuits with $1.4 billion and computer parts at $1 billion contributed substantially to the total.  Agriculture was $1.8 billion.

Among agricultural products, bananas at $660 million, pineapples at $485 million and coffee at $253 million provide significant contributions. What the Ministerio de
 Comercio Exterior called non-traditional product showed increases. These include yuca at $40 million, an increase of 18 percent and ñame at $12 million, an increase of 34 percent over 2006 figures, according to the ministry.

Seafoods checked in with $187 million, an 8 percent increase over 2006.

The figures came from Promotora del Comercio Exterior, which seeks to increase Costa Rican exports. North America received $3.5 billion of the country's exports, but Asia showed a 21 percent increase with $2 billion in products. Electronics represented 93 percent of the total.


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday,  Jan. 23, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 16

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Questions being raised about details of Costa Rican bond purchase by Chinese
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Partido Acción Ciudadana, a minority party in the legislature, has formally asked President Óscar Arias Sánchez to disclose the nation's financial dealings with the Republic of China, particularly as it might relate to renewed petroleum explorations in the Caribbean.

After Costa Rica dumped Taiwan to establish diplomatic relations with the People's Republic June 1, Taiwanese officials said that mainland China offered Costa Rica $430 million as an incentive.

This week reports surfaced of China purchasing at least $300 million in Costa Rican bonds, although the exact
amount and the terms were not disclosed. This is the information that Acción Ciudadana wants to have.

In a letter to Arias, the political party noted that the country's relationship with Taiwan has generated scandals over illegal political donations and the illegal finning of sharks caught in the Pacific. It asked Arias not to repeat similar mistakes with mainland China.

Acción Ciudadana specifically wants to know what other agreements are related to the bond purchase and suggested that the Arias administration might have agreed to allow China to do petroleum exploration in the Caribbean. This is a politically sensitive subject and led to the cancellation of a similiar contract with Harkin Petroleum in 2002.


EU will continue to label Colombia's rebels as terrorists despite Chávez plea
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The European Union says Colombia's rebels will remain on its terrorism list, despite a request from Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez to remove them.

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said after meeting with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe Tuesday in Brussels that there is no reason to change the EU's decision. The rebels are the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia.

Chávez said after he had negotiated the release of two
female hostages earlier this month that peace talks with rebels can proceed only if they are labeled as insurgents and not as terrorists.

Meanwhile, the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias has rejected a proposed Red Cross visit to check on the health of hundreds of hostages held for years in secret jungle camps.

Photos of hostages in ill health and suffering from jungle diseases were brought from the jungle by the recently released women. A rebel spokesman said a Red Cross visit might compromise the security of the hostages.


Thieves took fiber optic cable that controled signals up and down Paseo Colón
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Thieves took fiber optic cable that coordinates traffic signals on Paseo Colón over the weekend. The transport ministry thinks the thieves made a mistake and thought that the cable contained copper.

The signals still are operating but not with the coordination that was built in, said the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y
Transportes. Stolen was some 50 meters or about 160 feet of cable. This cable connected the traffic system in Paseo Colón and nearby streets with a center at Plaza González Víquez. Without the control, the uncoordinated signals result in a slower traffic flow, said officials.

Officials said they hoped to have the system fully functional by later today. Cable thefts are a continuing problem in the city.


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 16


Jacó to host international festival in promotion of anti-drugs culture
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

'Tis the season for grand international music ventures in small beachfront towns, it would seem, as Jacó gets in on the festival action with an event entitled Puntarenas Rock.

Three stages and 30 artists will come to San Jose's closest strip of sand on Feb. 2, brought by Gota Producciones. The music production company claims to use the festival to promote a world without drugs, developing and enforcing an attitude against drug use in young people.

Reggaeton king Daddy Yankee is the star guest, a Puerto Rican famous for his song “Gasolina”. Released in 2004 on the album Barrio Fino, it is one of the few songs from the reggaeton genre – primarily a Latin American favourite – to make it all over the world.

Organizers appear assured that this big name will draw a crowd of 20,000 people.

Punters will be able to choose between stages themed to reggaeton, electro and indie music. A separate stage will be set up for people willing to pay the VIP charge.

Other, less well-known acts will come from countries as far away as the Czech Republic, Spain and the United Kingdom, with bands playing until midnight and Djs continuing the party until 6 a.m.

Daddy Yankee will be the only live act on the reggaeton stage, with his show “The Big Boss Tour” starting at 8 p.m.

Proceeds from the tickets, which cost 10,000 colones, or $20, in advance, will go to the Escuela de Musica y Banda Municipal de Garabito - a local music school, and the Proyecto de Salvavidas de Jacó – a lifeboat organisation.


jacobeach
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Jaco beach will play host to 30 international artists

Tickets can be bought at www.mundoticket.com and www.jaco2008.com.

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...

Sunny days in San José complemented by free concerts

MAFconcert 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 annoying 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. 

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.

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.


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 the rest 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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