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2012年01月の記事一覧

RBSの元CEO、ナイトフッドを失う

2012.01.31
一つ前のポスト(http://loveandhatelondon.blog102.fc2.com/blog-entry-1551.html)で、ロイヤル・バンク・オブ・スコットランドの現CEOのボーナスのことを書いたが、今夕、そのRBSを破綻に追いやった元CEOのナイトフッドを剥奪、というニュースが流れた。


Former RBS boss Fred Goodwin loses knighthood
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-16821650

Former Royal Bank of Scotland boss Fred Goodwin has had his knighthood removed.

Mr Goodwin, who was heavily criticised over his role in the bank's near-collapse in 2008, was given the honour by the Labour government in 2004.

The Queen cancelled and annulled the title following Whitehall advice.

In the past, only convicted criminals or people struck off of professional bodies have had knighthoods taken away. But the government said Mr Goodwin was an "exceptional case".

He oversaw the multi-billion-pound deal to buy Dutch rival ABN Amro at the height of the financial crisis in 2007, which led to RBS having to be bailed out to the tune of £45bn by taxpayers.

'Exceptional case'
There had been a growing clamour for Mr Goodwin to be stripped of his honour, following thousands of job losses at RBS and in the banking industry since then and its impact on the wider economy.

After the removal of the knighthood, a Cabinet Office spokesman said: "The scale and severity of the impact of his actions as CEO of RBS made this an exceptional case."

He added: "Both the Financial Services Authority and the Treasury select committee have investigated the reasons for this failure and its consequences.

"They are clear that the failure of RBS played an important role in the financial crisis of 2008/9 which, together with other macroeconomic factors, triggered the worst recession in the UK since the Second World War and imposed significant direct costs on British taxpayers and businesses.

"Fred Goodwin was the dominant decision-maker at RBS at the time. In reaching this decision, it was recognised that widespread concern about Fred Goodwin's decisions meant that the retention of a Knighthood for 'services to banking' could not be sustained."

In 2009, Mr Goodwin told a committee of MPs he "could not be more sorry" for what had happened at RBS.
Labour leader Ed Miliband and Prime Minister David Cameron have both pressed for the knighthood to be removed.

The forfeiture committee - whose members include the cabinet secretary, the top civil servant at the Home Office, the top lawyer at the Treasury and the top official in the Scottish government - made the decision to recommend he lose the honour.

The Queen has the sole authority to rescind a knighthood, after taking advice.



 イギリスで暮らして10年経つけど、ナイトフッド剥奪なんてニュース、初めてだと思う


[追記:2月1日]
 今日のガーディアンに、ナイトフッドや勲章を剥奪された人のリストが掲載されていた。名が知られているところでは、ジンバブエのロバート・ムガベやチャウシェスク。

 ただ、グッドウィン氏の場合、法律を犯したとか、刑務所に収監されたとかのことなしに剥奪されたので、スケイプ・ゴートになったとの見方もある。

Fred Goodwin: A very British humiliation
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-business-16823381

スポンサーサイト

世界の話題 31Jan2012

2012.01.31
*著作権は、日本経済新聞社に帰属します。




イギリスから正直者がいなくなる?!

2012.01.31
先週の水曜日、1月25日のThe Independent紙に、過去10年で、イギリス人の道徳観意識が低下しているという調査結果と、分析記事が掲載されました。

Britain facing boom in dishonesty
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/britain-facing-boom-in-dishonesty-6294132.html

http://www.scribd.com/fullscreen/79272727?access_key=key-2butm7lnefdfy0m1iye7
(これは、新聞本紙に掲載されたグラフなど。いつまでアクセスできるか判らないので、興味がある方は早めの印刷をお勧めします)

 細かい統計の数字などは本文を読んでいただくとして、いくつかの段落を抜粋しておきます。

The British people are becoming less honest and their trust in government and business leaders has fallen to a new low amid fears that the nation is heading for an "integrity crisis".

Lying, having an affair, driving while drunk, having underage sex and buying stolen goods are all more acceptable than they were a decade ago. But people are less tolerant of benefits fraud.

The portrait of a nation increasingly relaxed about "low-level dishonesty" emerges in a major study seen by The Independent. Carried out by the University of Essex, which will today launch Britain's first Centre for the Study of Integrity, it suggests that the "integrity problem" is likely to get worse because young people are more tolerant of dishonest behaviour than the older generation. The new centre will look at issues arising from recent scandals such as phone hacking, MPs' expenses and the banking crisis.

The report's author, Professor Paul Whiteley, who will direct the new centre, believes there might be a "life cycle" effect in which people become more honest as they age. However, he points out that other research suggests people learn honesty or dishonesty in their formative years and this will not change very much as they get older.

"There are reasons to be pessimistic about this, since people tend to acquire their basic political beliefs in adolescence and these do not change very much as they grow older," the report says. "If integrity is anything like political values, then it is likely to decline in future as the norms which sanction such behaviour weaken further. This will be more likely if new cohorts of young people learn to be even more dishonest than at present."

"If social capital is low, and people are suspicious and don't work together, those communities have worse health, worse educational performance, they are less happy and they are less economically developed and entrepreneurial," Professor Whiteley said. "It really does have a profound effect."

The same trend could also deter people from voting, as a sense of civic duty is an important factor in explaining why people take part in elections.

"Individuals with a strong sense of integrity also feel they would be neglecting their duty if they did not vote," says the Essex study.


 この調査で統計が取られているのは、社会を揺るがすような凶悪犯罪等への考え方ではなく、日常生活で起きること、例えば駐車している車に傷をつけたときに届け出るか、履歴書に事実ではないことを書くことは許容されるか、結婚外の関係は許されるか等等。
 調査結果によると、10年前と比べると、イギリス人の"low-level dishonesty" の割合が大きくなり、社会のintegrity(共同性、とでも訳せるかな)の脅威になるであろう、というもの。
 この記事への関心は大きかったようで、ガーディアン、テレグラフ、そしてタイムズまでが後追いの分析記事やコメント記事を掲載していました。
 この記事が掲載されたあとに大きく報道されたのは、国有化され、国民がその負債を税金で負担しているロイヤル・バンク・オブ・スコットランドのCEOへの出来高報酬として100万ポンドのボーナスが払われることにイギリス社会が大きな反発を示したこと。現在のCEOがRBSの破綻を招いたのではなく、請われてCEOになって会社の建て直しをしているのだから彼の報酬を攻撃するのは的外れとする見方もあるでしょう。でなければ、そんな破綻した銀行のトップに無報酬で就任する銀行家なんてこの世界にいるとは思えません。
 このボーナスへの反発は、現在、イギリスだけでなく世界の多くの国が抱える課題、収入格差・生活基準格差の急速、且つ理不尽な拡大が根底にあると思います。でも、こんな100万ポンドのボーナスなんて、ロンドン地下鉄の組合幹部に比べたら可愛いもの、という気がします。

http://blog.goo.ne.jp/bigupset39/e/020833f0c49215ca9f1a9eb4fefe97bb

 力のあるもの、社会への脅威(ロンドン地下鉄の場合は、生活の足のコントロール)へアクセスできるもの、すでに潤沢な資金を持っているものだけが生活を謳歌している社会で、これまで不道徳と思われていたことを気にするのは無意味・無駄と感じる人が増えている状況にイギリス社会ははまりつつあるのかもしれません。それに、こんなことは、イギリスだけではないでしょう。確かスペイン発のニュースだったと思いますが、公共交通機関の運賃を踏み倒す若い世代が増えているという記事を読みました。

 個人的には、「これは次のコラムのいいトピックになるかな」、とまるで他人事のように読んでいました。

 翌26日の午後遅く、ロンドンで、というよりもこれまでの人生で初めて詐欺に引っかかりました。詳しくは書きませんが、詐欺と気づいたときの自分への憤り、どうして気づかなかったんだというself-humiliation。
 これまで何度となく、胡散臭い商品を売りつけられそうになっても、根拠も何もない似非宗教の勧誘を悉く蹴散らしてきたにもかかわらずどうしてこんなことに、という自己分析は仕事柄すぐにしましたとも。
 この日は、プロとしていつになく充実した一日を過ごし、この充実の気分のままもうすぐ仕事を終えて帰宅する。そんな、プロとしてのガードを下ろした一瞬の出来事。詐欺師と面していた時間は1分にも満たなかった。それほど、迅速、且つ乱れのない行為。

 先輩カウンセラーや同僚、そして友人たちから、「怪我しなかっただけでも良かったじゃないか。君が詐欺に引っかかったなんて、本当に驚いたよ。でもね、彼らはプロなんだ。その時に気づかなくて良かったよ。気づいていたら、もっと悪い状況になっていたかもしれないのだから」、と。
 恥ずかしくても、このようなことを自分の中に溜め込まず、さらにそれを無条件で聞いてくれる友人がいることは、なんと幸せなことか。

 こちらの友人たちに書き送った中で、詐欺にあった後、僕自身への最大の課題は、

I have learned quite a lot and will never forget this. The biggest issue in my mind caused by this is: How can I continue to trust people?" I cannot stop trusting the people.

 僕は、社会は「浜の真砂は尽きるとも、世に悪人の数は尽きまじ」だとは思いません。今、この不安定で、先が全く見えない社会で暮らす多くの人々が、調査を実施した研究者の不安とは逆に、マイナスに振れている社会をプラスに戻す流れを作り出すと信じます。

Men in Motion@サドラーズ・ウェルズ

2012.01.29
バレエ・ファン、さらに言えばロイヤル・バレエ・ファン以外の人にとっては何の意味もないニュースかもしれませんが、今週、ロイヤル・バレエの男性プリンシパル・ダンサーの去就が全国紙を数日に渡ってにぎわせました。

http://loveandhatelondon.blog102.fc2.com/blog-entry-1547.html

 大げさでなく、イギリスバレエ界に久しぶりに現れた若き天才ダンサーの離脱というだけでなく、彼の知られざる面が浮き彫りになって新聞にとってはうってつけのトピックだったのかもしれないです。

 このようなことが起こるとは思っていなかったときにチケットを購入しておいた今回の公演では、まさかロイヤル・バレエのダンサーが観に来るとは思っていなかったのですが、28日には、プリンシパル・ダンサーのキッシュと、プリンシパル・コーチのロシア人男性が観に来ていました。
 で、機会を捉えてキッシュと話してみたのですが、

http://loveandhatelondon.blog102.fc2.com/blog-entry-1548.html

彼の歯切れの悪さから、ポルーニンの近くにいたダンサーでさえどうしてこのようなことになってしまったのかわからない、という印象を持ちました。

 公演自体の感想を簡単に。サドラーズはチケット購入者にリマインダー・メイルを送ってきます。今回受け取ったメイルにはこうありました。

Due to issues with visas, some of the advertised artists will now not be appearing. The full cast will include Ivan Putrov, Sergei Polunin, Igor Kolb, Daniel Proietto, Elena Glurdjidze and Aaron Sillis.

The programme will be Folkine's Le Spectre de la Rose, a solo from Goleizosky's Narcisse, a new work called Ithaca with set design by Turner Prize nominated artist Gary Hume, Gluck's Dance of the Blessed Spirits and Russell Maliphant's AfterLight (Part One).


 こんなことはイギリスではもはや日常茶飯事(http://loveandhatelondon.blog102.fc2.com/blog-entry-1442.html)とはいえ、ボリショイのメルクリエフが来られなくなったからでしょう、当初予定されていたナチョ・デュアト振り付けの「REMANSO」が削られてしまったのが残念でした。これ、故ロス・ストレットンがロイヤル・バレエの監督だったときに上演されたのを観たことがあるのですが、以来、ロンドンでは観たことがなく楽しみにしていました。それにしても、マリインスキィのダンサーにヴィザが下りて、ボリショイが駄目という理由が全くわかりません。

Former Royal Ballet Principal, Ivan Putrov, presents an evening of works exploring the beauty of the male form in motion. Joining him onstage will be Royal Ballet sensation Sergei Polunin, Mariinsky Ballet Principal Igor Kolb, Critics’ Circle Award-winner Daniel Proietto, English National Ballet Senior Principal Elena Glurdjidze and South Bank Show Breakthrough Artist award-winner Aaron Sillis.

Accompanied by a live orchestra conducted by Richard Vernas, the evening will include Fokine’s legendary Le Spectre de la Rose, a solo fromGoleizovsky’s Narcisse danced by Polunin and Ithaca, a new work with set design by Turner Prize-nominated artist Gary Hume.

Continuing the theme is Gluck’s beautiful Dance of the Blessed Spirits. Originally choreographed by Ashton on Sir Anthony Dowell, it will be taught to Putrov by Sir Anthony; marking its first appearance in the UK for over 30 years. Completing the line-up is Russell Maliphant’s masterpiece, the Olivier Award nominated AfterLight (Part One).

(サドラーズのウェブから引用)


Le Spectre de la Rose (Igor Kolb, Elena Glurdjidze)
 バレエ・リュスを語るときには絶対に出てくるこの演目。実際に観るのはおそらく今回で5回程度ですが、最も酷いできでした。薔薇を踊ったコルプから色気も何も感じることができず、終わる頃には、「この振り付け、誰も彼もが素晴らしいというけど、素晴らしいと感じたことがない。もしかして、あまりに伝説過ぎて否定する勇気がもてないから、否定することが許されない雰囲気を批評家とバレエ・ファンが結託して作り上げているから、みんな誉めているだけなんじゃないのか?」、という感想しかもてないほど退屈でした。

Narcisse (Sergei Polunin)
 実際の彼の性格は本当に悪ガキなのかも知れないですが、舞台上の存在感は、「歴史を見ている」と感じるほどでした。特に跳躍では、勢いをつけての跳躍は言うに及ばず、その場で垂直に飛び上がるときの全く力みを見せずに、誰よりも高い位置に飛翔できる身体能力と、その飛翔する姿にため息が出るほどの美しさに、ポルーニンがこれでバレエを止めてしまったら、それは大きな損失だと思います。クライマックスに差し掛かる中盤で、後方から前方に向けて舞台を斜めに駆け抜けるときに見せた3連続跳躍・回転のコンビネイションでは、もしかして本当に浮いているのかというほど、美しいシークゥエンスでした。
 この踊りの演奏はピアノのみ。オーケストラのメンバー数人が指揮者代に座り込んでポルーニンの踊りを見ていました。ピアノは、フィリップ・ギャモンさん。円熟の演奏でした。
 
 ポルーニンの去就と、彼とロイヤル・バレエの関係については、ガーディアン紙のクリティクのジュディス女史が書いているようにロイヤル側のほうにもっと懐の深さを見せて欲しい。人事のごたごたがあるたびにメイソン監督はだんまりを決め込んでしまう傾向にあるように見受けられます。5年前に監督にインタヴューしたときは、時間があっという間に過ぎてしまうほど楽しいものでした。

http://www.chacott-jp.com/magazine/world-report/from-london/london0704a.html
(過去の仕事は全く読まないようにしているので、久しぶりに読んでみたら、自分の仕事にもかかわらず読みふけってしまった)

 バレエへの情熱、そしてカンパニーへの愛情の深さにおいては最高の人。でも、人事面については必ずしも優れているのではないのかな、と今回も感じています。

Dance of the Blessed Spirits (Ivan Putrov)
 当初は、これが観たくてチケットを購入しました。イギリスですら過去数十年、上演されなかったアシュトンの珍しい振り付け。踊ったプトロフを指導したアンソニィ・ダウエル卿に振付けられたということでとても洗練された、しかも繊細な振り付け。プトロフも上手に踊っていたとは思うのですが、ポルーニンの後では分が悪かったです。

AfterLight (Part One) (Daniel Proietto)
 隣に座っていた初老の男性は熟睡していました。が、これは何度観ても傑作。

http://loveandhatelondon.blog102.fc2.com/blog-entry-1144.html

会場であったブログ仲間のvoyager2artさんが書かれている、観る人によって多様な解釈を許すというのは的確に作品を評していると思います。

http://voyage2art.exblog.jp/14549541/

 プロイエットは、2月、文化村のダンス公演(http://loveandhatelondon.blog102.fc2.com/blog-entry-1446.html)に出演予定。ロンドン初演のときと同じポジションであれば、彼の素晴らしい身体能力は舞台が始まってすぐに観ることができるはずです。僕にとって、マリファントの作品はあまりはずれがありません。2月5日には、今年の10月にサドラーズで正式上演予定の、ロダンの彫刻に触発されたマリファントの新作の「製作過程」の舞台を観にいく予定です。

Ithaka (Ivan Putrov, Elena Glurdjidze, Aaron Sillis)
 始まってすぐのプトロフのソロ・パートは良かったのですが、最後は盛り上がりに欠け、尻すぼみの印象が強いままで終わってしまいました。

 いろいろ、本来の目的ではなかったスキャンダルでより注目されてしまったプログラムですが、男性バレエ・ダンサーの地位が上がるきっかけになるであろう舞台。サドラーズにとっても、ダンサーにとっても続ける意味はあるものだと思います。

ポルーニン、サドラーズ公演に出演した模様

2012.01.28
昨晩、27日からサドラーズで始まった「Men in Motion」のレヴューがすでに出ている。これも、「ポルーニン効果」だな。

Men in Motion – review
http://www.guardian.co.uk/stage/2012/jan/28/men-in-motion-review

Star ballet dancer Sergei Polunin in 'final' show
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/theatre/dance/9045464/Star-ballet-dancer-Sergei-Polunin-in-final-show.html

 サドラーズからのリマインダー・メイルで今晩のチケットを購入しておいたことが確実なので、観てきます。ダンス以外のことで注目を集めたしまっているようだけど、楽しみだ。感想は、ここに書き加えます。

What's really behind Sergei Polunin's Royal Ballet emergency exit?
http://www.guardian.co.uk/stage/theatreblog/2012/jan/26/sergei-polunin-royal-ballet-exit


 サドラーズから帰宅。感想は、やっぱり別項で書くとして。会場でロイヤルのキッシュを見かけて、終了後にやっと機会を捉えて話しかけてみた。インターヴァルで帰ったように思ったのだけど、タバコを吸いに外に出たよう。

Excuse me, are you Mr Kish of the Royal Ballet?

(驚いたように)Yes.

I did not expect to see any dancers from the RB tonight. Did you enjoy it?

Yes, it was glad to see Sergei. His dance was great.

Did you want to join tonight's stage?

No, I am happy with the RB.

No, I mean if you wanted to join this programme as a dancer?

No, I just wanted to see how it was and it was a great evening. Sergei is a nice guy and hope he will be fine. I am glad to come here.

About Mr Polunin, there seem to be some gossips in the media.....

For instance?

He is said to be a co-owner of the tatoo parlor...

Did you see any tatoo tonight?

Yes, because I was sitting in the front row, I saw one in his upper body.


(キッシュ、苦笑い)Well, you were in the front row. Anyway, I think Sergei will be able to reach the new level soon if.....

 他愛ない会話だったけど、まだ望みはあるのかな。

 サドラーズであったvoyager2artさん(http://voyage2art.exblog.jp/)とインターヴァル中にはなしたのは、ポルーニンの私生活はどうあれ、もし彼がバレエを本当に止めてしまったら、バレエ界にとってその損失は大きい。そう確信するほど、ポルーニンの踊りは凄かった。

セルゲイ・ポルーニン、ロイヤル・バレエを突然退団

2012.01.25
昨晩観てきたThe Beeへの失望を書き連ねようと思っていたら、ロイヤル・バレエの若きプリンシパル、セルゲイ・ポルーニンが、まさに突然、退団したとのニュース。

Royal Ballet star Sergei Polunin quits
http://www.guardian.co.uk/stage/2012/jan/25/royal-ballet-sergei-polunin-quits

Royal Ballet 'shocked' by Sergei Polunin resignation
http://www.guardian.co.uk/stage/2012/jan/25/royal-ballet-shocked-sergei-polunin

Sergei Polunin in shock resignation from Royal Ballet
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/theatre/dance/9036796/Sergei-Polunin-in-shock-resignation-from-Royal-Ballet.html

Sergei Polunin 'felt constricted' at Royal Ballet
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/theatre/dance/9037829/Sergei-Polunin-felt-constricted-at-Royal-Ballet.html

Royal Ballet 'in shock' as dancer Sergei Polunin quits
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-16714921

 あと出しみたいな書き方なのは承知の上で、ポルーニンがロイヤル・バレエを退団したことには驚かなかった。舞台の彼を観るたびに、「本当に楽しいのかな」といつも感じていた。それに、今週末にサドラーズであるプログラムで、イヴァン・プトロフと共演するという発表の時点で何か嵐がありそうな気もしていたし。

 フィジカルの面が秀でている男性ダンサーに恵まれないロイヤル・バレエにとっては、痛手だと思う。でも、これでエドワード・ワトソンのジークフリートが見られたりしたりなんて。本人が踊る気があるかどうかは知らない。
 さらに、「何もわかっていない若者が勘違いしたくらいで何を慌てふためいているのよ!私が盛り上げてあげるわ!」、なんてこの方 http://loveandhatelondon.blog102.fc2.com/blog-category-2.htmlがコヴェント・ガーデンの戻ってきてくれたら良いな、と。

確かサドラーズのチケットは買ってあったはず。観たいのは、プトロフが踊る予定のアシュトンの観たことのない演目だけど、ポルーニンが予定通り出演するのであれば、それはそれで盛り上がるだろう。


[追記:1月26日]
 サンディ・テレグラフでバレエを担当している女性による記事。

Sergei Polunin: the ballet cheek of it
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/theatre/dance/9038573/Sergei-Polunin-the-ballet-cheek-of-it.html

 どうやら、ミハイロフスキィに引き抜かれたわけではないようだけど、もっと深刻な感じ。彼がタトゥーをしていたなんて全く知らなかった。

Was it all simply a case of too much too young? He’s clearly a complicated and contradictory character. He wanted every role he could get, then complained of feeling “constricted”, demanding to be released for lucrative guest appearances (“that is where you make good money”). Polunin is hardly the first dancer to want to make the most of their golden years. If this was the problem, it’s a pity he and Monica Mason weren’t able to thrash out a compromise before it came to this.

 若い天才の燃え尽きはあるだろうけど、若くして頂点に登りつめてそのままトップを維持しているのはギエムしかり、ル・リッシュしかり。でも、なんだか自分をコントロールできなくてドロップ・アップしてしまいつつあるポルーニンにシンパシィはもてない。将来を嘱望されて、本人もトップになるつもりで研鑽していたにもかかわらず、予期せぬ怪我によってバレエを断念した人は沢山いるだろう。なぜだか忘れられない名前は、かつてパリ・オペラ座のホープ(だったらしい)、ギレーヌ・ファルー。

At the time of writing the young star was holed up in darkest Holloway, in the bedroom above the tattoo parlour he co-owns. Google “Sergei Polunin” and the word “tattoo” comes third in the list of suggestions. There is a school of thought which insists that the tattoo count is in inverse proportion to IQ. Sergei Polunin has lots of tattoos (all masked at vast expense by the make-up department).

Dermal decoration is pretty rare in the ballet world, so much so that one company insider mistook the bear claw “scar” that runs across his chest for a horrific instance of “self-harming” – which I suppose it is, in a way. The giant crucifix tattoo on that beautifully muscled forearm is hardly the smartest choice for a man whose body is on constant display (there’s a lot more topless ballet than you’d think). Most ballet dancers don’t even dare sunbathe in case it’s wrong for a role. My spies tell me the latest acquisition, done by a rather confused Russian tattooist, reads: “I am hwo I am” (let’s hope he got a discount).


 今日、ロイヤル・オペラから会員誌が届いていた。予定キャストにはポルーニンの名前がここにもあそこにも。5月の「リーズの結婚」で、崔さんの相手は誰になるのかな。ありえるとは思えないけど、数年位前に同じプロダクションをレパートリィに入れたパリ・オペの生きの良い旬な男性ダンサーがゲストで来ないかな。

デイヴィッド・ホックニィ展:A Bigger Picture

2012.01.22
1月21日からロイヤル・アカデミィ・オブ・アーツで始まったデイヴィッド・ホックニィ展: A Bigger Pictureを一般公開より先に観る機会に恵まれました。仕事を続けさせてくれる皆さんに大感謝です。

http://www.royalacademy.org.uk/exhibitions/hockney/about-the-exhibition/

 今回の展覧会は、ヨークシャー東部の風景画をホックニィが精力的に描き始めた2006年、もしくは2007年ごろにアカデミィ側からの申し出があり、それにホックニィも協調して実現したもの。なので、作品の多く、とりわけ展覧会のタイトルから想像できる「大きな絵」の多くは、2007年以降に描かれたもの。2枚のキャンヴァスをあわせたものから、この展覧会の目玉であるヨークシャーでの春の訪れを描いた絵は、32枚ものキャンヴァスをあわせてあり、大きさだけでなく、絵から伝わるスピード感に圧倒されます。

 会場を入って右側、Room2にはホックニィのアメリカ時代の風景画がいくつか展示されています。彼にとって風景を書くことはなんら新しい挑戦ではないことが判ります。しかしながら、僕にはこのアメリカ時代の絵はとても息苦しいものでした。アメリカへの興味を失ったから、ということではなくてホックニィが描くアメリカの風景、ホックニィが見たアメリカには呼吸する空間がないように感じたからです。つまり、キャンヴァスに、観る側が想像を働かせる余地が少ない。
 それは、ホックニィが90年代に描いたヨークシャーの風景画にも共通します。これは展覧会全体をじっくりと見てから、またキュレイターの方の説明を聞いてから考えたことですが、ホックニィが彼のイマジネイションを元に描いた風景画には、超現実という雰囲気が漂っている印象を持ちました。特に、Room7に展示されている、ヨークシャーの初夏を象徴する花の咲き方を直接の観察から描いた絵と、ホックニィがイマジネイションを駆使してスタジオで描いた花の描かれ方の違いは明らかで、表現者の観察視点の飛翔を強く感じることができました。
 Arrival of SpringとのタイトルがつけられたRoom9には、51点にも及ぶ、ホックニィがiPadで描いた風景画が展示されています。全てが素晴らしいという気はないですが、壮観でした。また、Room11では、ホックニィが描いたヨークシャーの自然を撮影したヴィデオが上映されています。画面の数は18面。一つ一つの画面が、隣り合った画面に写される自然と完全にシンクロしていない点が非常に面白かったです。
 ニューロ・サイコロジィの一つの分野になるかもしれないですが、人間が両目で物体を見ていると思っているとき、右目と左目で見ている画像は微妙にずれている。それを脳が微調整して一つの物体としてみていると思い込む。そのずれをあえて調整しないで映すことで、ホックニィがどのように自然を観察し、どのように自然をキャンヴァスに移したかが判る気がしました。

 多分に個人的な感傷ですが、僕にとってこの展覧会で抱いた最大の想いは、ノスタルジィ。今回、Room4に展示されている小さな絵の多くは、2006年に観ました。

http://loveandhatelondon.blog102.fc2.com/blog-entry-454.html

 2009年3月に鬼籍に入ってしまった友人のK夫人(http://loveandhatelondon.blog102.fc2.com/blog-entry-66.html)。2006年当時、寝たきりではなかったけど、外出できなかった彼女に見せてあげようと思い、ギャラリィで購入したカタログをプレゼントしました。じっと絵に見入っていた夫人の目にはしばらくして涙が浮かんでいました。曰く、「第二次世界大戦末期、ヨークシャーに疎開していたの。難しい時代だったけど、自然はホックニィが描いている通りだったわ。真冬の凍った道の色、まさにこの通りだったのよ」と。そんな思いもあり、ホックニィが描いたヨークシャーは、僕が知っているヨークシャーではありませんが、僕自身が戻りたい場所、という想いが湧き起こるものでした。

 批評は、真っ二つです。色使いがありえないとか、深みにかけるとか。噴飯ものの評は、「lack of psychological depth」。これほどまでに「ホックニィ」にあふれた会場にいて、あなたは何を観たの?、と。ただ、僕自身、全ての作品に満足したわけではないですし、特にiPadに作品のいくつかにはなんら興味をもてませんでした。出揃ったレヴューの中で、納得がいったのはこれです。

http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2012/jan/22/david-hockney-bigger-picture-review
 
 僕にとってもっとも収穫だったのは、展覧会全体を通して、ホックニィという表現者が、彼の創造意欲をどのように具現していくかという過程を一部とはいえ共有、もしくは共鳴することができたこと。このような臨場感は、亡くなってしまった芸術家の展覧会から感じるのは難しいのではないかと考えます。
 
 で、ここまで煽っておいてなんですが、すでに前売り券、ほぼ完売だそうです。正直、僕もホックニィの人気がこれほどまでとは思っていませんでした。ということで、アカデミィ側も対策を考えているようで、追加チケットの販売あるようです。チケットを購入したい方は、こちらを。

http://www.royalacademy.org.uk/exhibitions/hockney/tickets/

 ロンドン在住の方は、フレンズ会員になったほうが手っ取り早いかもしれないです。そうすれば、事前予約は必要ですが、好きなときに好きな絵だけを何度も観にいけますから。ロンドンのあとは、ビルバオのグッゲンハイム、そしてケルンに巡回して終わり。日本に行く予定はなさそうです。

日本は勝ち組なのか?

2012.01.22
日本にいないまま、イギリスで得る情報だけで日本の先行きを心配するのは、日本で暮らす人々にとっては余計なお世話と映るだろう。わからないからこそ、混乱してしまう、というのが正直な気分。で、その混乱にさらに輪をかけてくれる記事を読んだ。

 日曜新聞紙のオブザーヴァにはニュー・ヨーク・タイムズの簡易版が入っている。今朝のものに掲載されていたのは、もしかして日本の失敗は世界の勘違いだったのか?、という記事。

The Myth of Japan’s Failure
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/08/opinion/sunday/the-true-story-of-japans-economic-success.html?_r=1


By EAMONN FINGLETON
Published: January 6, 2012

DESPITE some small signs of optimism about the United States economy, unemployment is still high, and the country seems stalled.

Time and again, Americans are told to look to Japan as a warning of what the country might become if the right path is not followed, although there is intense disagreement about what that path might be. Here, for instance, is how the CNN analyst David Gergen has described Japan: “It’s now a very demoralized country and it has really been set back.”

But that presentation of Japan is a myth. By many measures, the Japanese economy has done very well during the so-called lost decades, which started with a stock market crash in January 1990. By some of the most important measures, it has done a lot better than the United States.

Japan has succeeded in delivering an increasingly affluent lifestyle to its people despite the financial crash. In the fullness of time, it is likely that this era will be viewed as an outstanding success story.

How can the reality and the image be so different? And can the United States learn from Japan’s experience?

It is true that Japanese housing prices have never returned to the ludicrous highs they briefly touched in the wild final stage of the boom. Neither has the Tokyo stock market.

But the strength of Japan’s economy and its people is evident in many ways. There are a number of facts and figures that don’t quite square with Japan’s image as the laughingstock of the business pages:

• Japan’s average life expectancy at birth grew by 4.2 years ― to 83 years from 78.8 years ― between 1989 and 2009. This means the Japanese now typically live 4.8 years longer than Americans. The progress, moreover, was achieved in spite of, rather than because of, diet. The Japanese people are eating more Western food than ever. The key driver has been better health care.

• Japan has made remarkable strides in Internet infrastructure. Although as late as the mid-1990s it was ridiculed as lagging, it has now turned the tables. In a recent survey by Akamai Technologies, of the 50 cities in the world with the fastest Internet service, 38 were in Japan, compared to only 3 in the United States.

• Measured from the end of 1989, the yen has risen 87 percent against the U.S. dollar and 94 percent against the British pound. It has even risen against that traditional icon of monetary rectitude, the Swiss franc.

• The unemployment rate is 4.2 percent, about half of that in the United States.

• According to skyscraperpage.com, a Web site that tracks major buildings around the world, 81 high-rise buildings taller than 500 feet have been constructed in Tokyo since the “lost decades” began. That compares with 64 in New York, 48 in Chicago, and 7 in Los Angeles.

• Japan’s current account surplus ― the widest measure of its trade ― totaled $196 billion in 2010, up more than threefold since 1989. By comparison, America’s current account deficit ballooned to $471 billion from $99 billion in that time. Although in the 1990s the conventional wisdom was that as a result of China’s rise Japan would be a major loser and the United States a major winner, it has not turned out that way. Japan has increased its exports to China more than 14-fold since 1989 and Chinese-Japanese bilateral trade remains in broad balance.

As longtime Japan watchers like Ivan P. Hall and Clyde V. Prestowitz Jr. point out, the fallacy of the “lost decades” story is apparent to American visitors the moment they set foot in the country. Typically starting their journeys at such potent symbols of American infrastructural decay as Kennedy or Dulles airports, they land at Japanese airports that have been extensively expanded and modernized in recent years.

William J. Holstein, a prominent Japan watcher since the early 1980s, recently visited the country for the first time in some years. “There’s a dramatic gap between what one reads in the United States and what one sees on the ground in Japan,” he said. “The Japanese are dressed better than Americans. They have the latest cars, including Porsches, Audis, Mercedes-Benzes and all the finest models. I have never seen so many spoiled pets. And the physical infrastructure of the country keeps improving and evolving.”

Why, then, is Japan seen as a loser? On the official gross domestic product numbers, the United States has ostensibly outperformed Japan for many years. But even taking America’s official numbers at face value, the difference has been far narrower than people realize. Adjusted to a per-capita basis (which is the proper way to do this) and measured since 1989, America’s G.D.P. grew by an average of just 1.4 percent a year. Japan’s figure meanwhile was even more anemic ― just 1 percent ― implying that it underperformed the United States by 0.4 percent a year.

A look at the underlying accounting, however, suggests that, far from underperforming, Japan may have outperformed. For a start, in a little noticed change, United States statisticians in the 1980s embarked on an increasingly aggressive use of the so-called hedonic method of adjusting for inflation, an approach that in the view of many experts artificially boosts a nation’s apparent growth rate.

On the calculations of John Williams of Shadowstats.com, a Web site that tracks flaws in United States economic data, America’s growth in recent decades has been overstated by as much as 2 percentage points a year. If he is even close to the truth, this factor alone may put the United States behind Japan in per-capita performance.

If the Japanese have really been hurting, the most obvious place this would show would be in slow adoption of expensive new high-tech items. Yet the Japanese are consistently among the world’s earliest adopters. If anything, it is Americans who have been lagging. In cellphones, for instance, Japan leapfrogged the United States in the space of a few years in the late 1990s and it has stayed ahead ever since, with consumers moving exceptionally rapidly to ever more advanced devices.

Much of the story is qualitative rather than quantitative. An example is Japan’s eating-out culture. Tokyo, according to the Michelin Guide, boasts 16 of the world’s top-ranked restaurants, versus a mere 10 for the runner-up, Paris. Similarly Japan as a whole beats France in the Michelin ratings. But how do you express this in G.D.P. terms?

Similar problems arise in measuring improvements in the Japanese health care system. And how does one accurately convey the vast improvement in the general environment in Japan in the last two decades?

Luckily there is a yardstick that finesses many of these problems: electricity output, which is mainly a measure of consumer affluence and industrial activity. In the 1990s, while Japan was being widely portrayed as an outright “basket case,” its rate of increase in per-capita electricity output was twice that of America, and it continued to outperform into the new century.

Part of what is going on here is Western psychology. Anyone who has followed the story long-term cannot help but notice that many Westerners actively seek to belittle Japan. Thus every policy success is automatically discounted. It is a mind-set that is much in evidence even among Tokyo-based Western diplomats and scholars.

Take, for instance, how Western observers have viewed Japan’s demographics. The population is getting older because of a low birthrate, a characteristic Japan shares with many of the world’s richest nations. Yet this is presented not only as a critical problem but as a policy failure. It never seems to occur to Western commentators that the Japanese both individually and collectively have chosen their demographic fate ― and have good reasons for doing so.

The story begins in the terrible winter of 1945-6, when, newly bereft of their empire, the Japanese nearly starved to death. With overseas expansion no longer an option, Japanese leaders determined as a top priority to cut the birthrate. Thereafter a culture of small families set in that has continued to the present day.

Japan’s motivation is clear: food security. With only about one-third as much arable land per capita as China, Japan has long been the world’s largest net food importer. While the birth control policy is the primary cause of Japan’s aging demographics, the phenomenon also reflects improved health care and an increase of more than 20 years in life expectancy since 1950.

Psychology aside, a major factor in the West’s comprehension problem is that virtually everyone in Tokyo benefits from the doom and gloom story. For foreign sales representatives, for instance, it has been the perfect get-out-of-jail card when they don’t reach their quotas. For Japanese foundations it is the perfect excuse in politely waving away solicitations from American universities and other needy nonprofits. Ditto for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in tempering expectations of foreign aid recipients. Even American investment bankers have reasons to emphasize bad news. Most notably they profit from the so-called yen-carry trade, an arcane but powerful investment strategy in which the well informed benefit from periodic bouts of weakness in the Japanese yen.

Economic ideology has also played an unfortunate role. Many economists, particularly right-wing think-tank types, are such staunch advocates of laissez-faire that they reflexively scorn Japan’s very different economic system, with its socialist medicine and ubiquitous government regulation. During the stock market bubble of the late 1980s, this mind-set abated but it came back after the crash.

Japanese trade negotiators noticed an almost magical sweetening in the mood in foreign capitals after the stock market crashed in 1990. Although previously there had been much envy of Japan abroad (and serious talk of protectionist measures), in the new circumstances American and European trade negotiators switched to feeling sorry for the “fallen giant.” Nothing if not fast learners, Japanese trade negotiators have been appealing for sympathy ever since.

The strategy seems to have been particularly effective in Washington. Believing that you shouldn’t kick a man when he is down, chivalrous American officials have largely given up pressing for the opening of Japan’s markets. Yet the great United States trade complaints of the late 1980s ― concerning rice, financial services, cars and car components ― were never remedied.

The “fallen giant” story has also even been useful to other East Asian nations, particularly in their trade diplomacy with the United States.

A striking instance of how the story has influenced American perceptions appears in “The Next 100 Years,” by the consultant George Friedman. In a chapter headed “China 2020: Paper Tiger,” Mr. Friedman argues that, just as Japan “failed” in the 1990s, China will soon have its comeuppance. Talk of this sort powerfully fosters complacency and confusion in Washington in the face of a United States-China trade relationship that is already arguably the most destructive in world history and certainly the most unbalanced.

Clearly the question of what has really happened to Japan is of first-order geopolitical importance. In a stunning refutation of American conventional wisdom, Japan has not missed a beat in building an ever more sophisticated industrial base. That this is not more obvious is a tribute in part to the fact that Japanese manufacturers have graduated to making so-called producers’ goods. These typically consist of advanced components or materials, or precision production equipment. They may be invisible to the consumer, yet without them the modern world literally would not exist. This sort of manufacturing, which is both highly capital-intensive and highly know-how-intensive, was virtually monopolized by the United States in the 1950s and 1960s and constituted the essence of American economic leadership.

Japan’s achievement is all the more impressive for the fact that its major competitors ― Germany, South Korea, Taiwan and, of course, China ― have hardly been standing still. The world has gone through a rapid industrial revolution in the last two decades thanks to the “targeting” of manufacturing by many East Asian nations. Yet Japan’s trade surpluses have risen.

Japan should be held up as a model, not an admonition. If a nation can summon the will to pull together, it can turn even the most unpromising circumstances to advantage. Here Japan’s constant upgrading of its infrastructure is surely an inspiration. It is a strategy that often requires cooperation across a wide political front, but such cooperation has not been beyond the American political system in the past. The Hoover Dam, that iconic project of the Depression, required negotiations among seven states but somehow it was built ― and it provided jobs for 16,000 people in the process. Nothing is stopping similar progress now ― nothing, except political bickering.


Eamonn Fingleton is an author who predicted the Japanese financial crash of the 1990s; he is working on a book about the end of the American dream.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: January 6, 2012


A previous version of this article included an incorrect figure for the increase in life expectancy in Japan. It changed by 4.2 years, not 3.1.


 経済記事にしてはとても読みやすい。が、僕個人の正直な感想は、この記事が描いている日本の状況は正しいのか、それもmisleadingなのか判断をつけることはできない。穿った見方をすれば、アメリカやヨーロッパの終わりが見えない経済の混乱・破綻に疲れた西側が、バブル崩壊後停滞したままの日本がいまだに経済的に破綻していないことが、砂漠の中のオアシスのように見えるのではないか。


[追記:1月24日]
朝日新聞デジタルに以下の記事。

国の借金985兆円 12年度に1千兆円超え確実
http://www.asahi.com/business/update/0124/TKY201201240691.html

国債や借入金などを合わせた国の借金の2011年度末の残高は、985兆3586億円になる見通しとなった。政府が24日に国会に出した11年度第4次補正予算案で明らかになった。これまでは1024兆円と見込んでいた。ただ、12年度末は1085兆円程度と、初めて1千兆円を超えるのは確実な状況だ。

 11年度末に1千兆円に達しなかった主な要因は、為替介入に必要なお金を調達するための政府短期証券の発行残高を最大165兆円と見込んでいたが、129兆円に収まる見通しになったため。過去に発行した国債を借り換える費用も当初想定よりも少なく、普通国債全体の発行残高も4千億円減少する見込みだ。

 12年度予算案では、新たな国債を44兆2千億円分発行するほか、東日本大震災の復興費にあてる「復興債」も2兆7千億円分発行する。そのため、12年度末の残高が1千兆円を超えるのは確実視されている。


 どうやって、何年で、そして「誰が」返済できるのだろう?

ラファエル前派@テイト・ブリテン

2012.01.21
今週のTime Outはアート特集。その中で9月からテイト・ブリテンでラファエル前派の大きな展覧会があることが紹介されていた。

http://www.tate.org.uk/about/pressoffice/pressreleases/2011/23704.htm

Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Avant-Garde

Press release: 3 March 2011

Combining rebellion and revivalism, scientific precision and imaginative grandeur, the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood shook the art world of mid-nineteenth-century Britain. In autumn 2012, Tate Britain will stage a major survey of the group which sets out to show that the Pre-Raphaelites constitute Britain’s first modern art movement. Bringing together over 150 works which combine famous and lesser known Pre-Raphaelite paintings with sculpture, photography and the applied arts, this exhibition will highlight the ambition and broad scope of their revolutionary ideas about art, design and society.

Led by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Holman Hunt and John Everett Millais, the Pre-Raphaelites rebelled against the art establishment of their day. Their unflinchingly radical style, inspired by the purity of early Renaissance painting, defied convention, provoked critics and entranced audiences.

Today, known for their exquisitely detailed, vividly coloured style, the works of the Pre-Raphaelites are among the best known of all English paintings, and yet they have sometimes been dismissed as mere Victoriana or pure escapism. Tracing developments from their formation in 1848 through to their Symbolist creations of the 1890s, this exhibition will show that whether their subjects were taken from modern life or literature, the New Testament or classical mythology, the Pre-Raphaelites were committed to the idea of art’s potential to change society. In pieces such as Madox Brown’s The Last of England 1852-5 (Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery) they served this aim by representing topical social issues and challenging prevailing attitudes. In other artworks including Burne-Jones's King Cophetua and the Beggar Maid 1884 (Tate) a different approach is at work as they embraced beauty and ornamentation as a resistance to an increasingly industrialised society.

Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Avant-Garde will offer the chance to see well-known paintings such as Ophelia 1851-2 (Tate) by John Everett Millais (1829-1896) and The Scapegoat 1854-5 (National Museums Liverpool) by William Holman Hunt (1827-1910). Highlights of the exhibition will also include masterpieces rarely seen in the UK such as Rossetti’s Found 1854-5/1859-81 (Delaware Art Museum, USA) and Burne-Jones Perseus series (Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart), as well as those which are rarely loaned such as the grand social panorama, Work 1852-65 (Manchester Art Gallery) by Ford Madox Brown (1821-1893). Spectacular mature works by Hunt, Millias, Rossetti and Madox Brown will also be united for the exhibition.

In contrast to previous Pre-Raphaelite surveys, this exhibition will juxtapose paintings with works in other media including the applied arts, showing the important role of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in the early development of the Arts and Crafts movement and the socialist ideas of the poet, designer and theorist, William Morris (1834-1896). Bringing together furniture and objects designed by Morris‘s firm, of which many Pre-Raphaelite artists were part, it will show how Morris’s iconography for British socialism ultimately evolved out of Pre-Raphaelitism. Highlights include Philip Webb and Burne-Jones's The Prioress's Tale wardrobe 1858 and the embroideries made by Jane and May Morris for William Morris’s bed at Kelmscott Manor c1891.

Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Avant-Garde is curated by Alison Smith, Curator (Head of British Art to 1900), Tate Britain; Tim Barringer, Professor of History of Art at Yale University and Jason Rosenfeld, Distinguished Chair and Associate Professor of Art History at Marymount Manhattan College, New York, assisted by Philippa Simpson, Assistant Curator, Tate Britain.



http://www.viewlondon.co.uk/whatson/pre-raphaelites-exhibition-london-article-10622.html

With over 150 works on show as part of the Pre-Raphaelites exhibition, London art lovers can take a fresh look at the Victorian art movement and examine the beautiful, extravagant paintings in a broader historical context.

The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood
Pioneered by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Holman Hunt and John Everett Millais, the art of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood has sometimes been dismissed as quaint Victoriana or mere escapism. However, at the Tate Britain Pre-Raphaelites exhibition, London art fans can appreciate the paintings as reflecting the revolutionary ideas the Brotherhood had about the power of art to provoke social change, and the dramatic impact the Pre-Raphaelite movement had on the Victorian art world.

Major retrospective
Titled Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Avant-Garde, the major retrospective at Tate Britain includes many world famous paintings rarely seen in the UK, including Rossetti's Found, on loan from the USA's Delaware Art Museum. Also at the Pre-Raphaelites exhibition, London art lovers can feast their eyes on iconic Ophelia by John Everett Millais, The Scapegoat by William Holman Hunt, the epic social panorama Work by Ford Madox Brown, and Rossetti's seductive depiction of Lady Lilith.

Victorian avant garde
Initially inspired by early Renaissance paintings, the Pre-Raphaelite movement is perhaps best remembered today for the detail and colour of its lavish paintings as well as the romanticism of much of its subject matter. Drawing on everything from biblical stories to classical mythology and modern literature, the likes of Madox Brown, Burne-Jones, Millais, Hunt and Rossetti created some breathtaking art, with over 150 such pieces on show at the Tate Britain's Pre-Raphaelites exhibition. London art fans can also take a closer look at sculptures, photography, and Arts and Crafts objects such as furniture and embroideries made by Jane and May Morris.

Not just pretty pictures
In contrast to their occasional misrepresentation as mere Victorian escapism, the exhibition at Tate Britain suggests that the Pre-Raphaelites were in fact Britain's first modern art movement, whose radical style and ideas defied the conventions of the day. Often confronting social issues and reacting against the increasing industrialisation of Britain, the movement influenced the early Arts and Crafts movement pioneered by the socialist, poet and designer William Morris. In contrast to previous exhibitions on Pre-Raphaelite art, the Tate Britain show features paintings alongside other media, such as early works from the Arts and Crafts movement, to demonstrate the Brotherhood's enduring legacy.


 ラファエル前派の展覧会なんて、毎年イギリスのどこかで催されている印象があるけど、ダイアモンド・ジュビリィとオリンピック/パラリンピックがある2012年、規模が違うのかもしれない。

 2月上旬からテイト・モダンで始まる草間弥生の展覧会のほうが興味ある。

ポール・ウェラーをマークスで見た

2012.01.20
1月7日の午後5時半ごろ、エッジウェア・ロードのマークス・アンド・スペンサーで買い物をしてさて帰るかと出口に向っていたら、向こうから観たことある、滅多にない髪形(ほぼ真っ白)の男性が女性の手を引いて女性衣料エリアにずんずん歩いているのを見かけた。

 ポール・ウェラーだった。

PWeller.jpg

 ポール・ウェラーが率いたJamの系譜、モッズはイギリスロックの中ではほとんど縁がない分野。大御所のThe Whoですら何が良いのか全く響いてこない。

 でも、ポール・ウェラーは50歳を過ぎてなお、メインストリームにいるようだから、人気・実力ともに認められるのだろう。
 個人的にとても感慨深いのは、イスラム化が進む、というよりほぼイスラムと化しているエッジウェア・ロードのスーパーマーケットで、ロイヤル・アルバート・ホールでのコンサートを売り切れにできるほどのヴェテラン・ロッカーに遭遇したということ。ブライアン・フェリィやポール・マッカートニィにあの通りで遭遇するとは考えられない。

 なんてことをすぐに書こうと思って、でも忙しくて放っておいたら、ポール・ウェラーに双子の子供が生まれたとのニュース。

http://ro69.jp/blog/miyazaki/62869

 遭遇したいミュージシャンは、ピーター・ゲイブリエルケイト・ブッシュ

東西の島国は借金大国

2012.01.20
昨日、ガーディアンを読んでいたとき経済面に掲載されていたニュースに目が釘付けになった。

UK credit binge pushes debt above 500% of GDP
http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2012/jan/19/uk-highest-debt-to-gdp-ratio

 経済記事を解説できる語彙を持ち合わせていないので無理に翻訳しようとは思わないけど、本題は「今ないお金」を頼って浪費しすぎたイギリスの借金について。そのような記事で、思わず目が留まったのは以下の部分。

An international study found Britain had the highest level of debt after Japan, that the debt had risen over the past three years to more than 500% of national output, and that on current trends it would take until 2020 for UK households to return debt levels to the pre-bubble trend.

 そして記事の横に掲載されたチャートの数字を見てさらに驚いたのは、日本のGDPにおける世界でも突出した借金は何も今に始まったことではなく、90年代半ばにはすでに400%を超えて止まるどころかイギリス同様500%を超えて下がる兆しが見られないという事実。

 ウェブにはチャートが掲載されていなかったので、ガーディアン本紙に記載されていた数字の出所(Haver Analytics/ National Central Banks)を頼って同じチャートを探した毛で見つからなかった。したのは、期間は短いけど傾向はつかめると思う。

mckinsey-deleverage.jpg

 次の二つのグラフは、デイタがどの時代のものかが明記されていない。が、その点を差し引いても、日本の、対GDPにおける借金は突出しているように感じる。
national-debt.gif

 作成されたのは、現在のユーロ危機の前だとは思うが、日本の経済環境が、ギリシアやイタリアよりよいとは到底思えない。
DebtCrisis.jpg

 イギリスの借金の増え方も凄まじいものがある。本紙に掲載されていたチャートによると、90年代初めは200%だった借金が、2011年代2四半期には500%を超えるという急増ぶり。

 この東西の二つの島国が、同じ時期に債務不履行(デフォルト)になったら、世界はどうなるのだろう?何も変わらない、ということもありえるのかな。

 「Deleveraging」の意味をご存知の方、ご教示いただけると助かります。

2011年末に撮った写真

2012.01.17

ホックニィ@王立芸術院

2012.01.17
TheArrivalofSpring.jpg
(ガーディアンから拝借。今回の展覧会の目玉)

今日、初日を前に見る機会がありました。。私見は週末にかければと思っていますが、ロンドン、およびイギリス在住の皆さん、また2月以降、会期最終日の4月9日までにロンドンに来られる予定の方、

必見

だと思います。レヴューもすでに出始めているようです。

http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/arts/article-24028478-force-of-nature-david-hockney.do

http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2012/jan/16/david-hockney-landscapes
 ガーディアンの批評家はお気に召さなかったよう。

 会場では、ヴィデオ・インスタレイションもあります。バレエ・ダンサーたちが踊る場面があり、その中で見事なタップを披露しているのはスティーヴン・マックレィ。ヴィデオは約30分。ダンサーの場面は最後です。

ホックニィの展覧会の盛り上がり

2012.01.15
1月21日から、ロイヤル・アカデミィ・オブ・アーツで始めるデイヴィッド・ホックニィの展覧会についての情報が日ごとに増えている。現役で活動を続けているイギリス人の画家としては最も多くの人が知っているであろうし、今回の展覧会で展示される作品の多くが、イギリスの東ヨークシャー中心というのも大きな関心をひきつけている利湯ではないかと思う。

 今回展示される作品に含まれる、イースト・ヨークシャーを描いたいくつかの作品の初めての展示を2006年に観たことがある。

http://loveandhatelondon.blog102.fc2.com/blog-entry-454.html

A-Closer-Winter-Tunnel-Fe-003.jpg

 これは、その2006年に観た作品の一つ。クレジットによるとどうやらイギリス国外にすでに流出しているようだ。

 14日にガーディアン紙に掲載されたホックニィのインタヴューがとても面白く、展示を観る前にとても参考になる。

http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/2012/jan/13/david-hockney-life-in-art

 とても長いので全文を転載しないけど、とても気に入った言葉を。

Hockney's deteriorating hearing contributed to the premature end of his career as a designer for ballet and opera that began with his now much-revived Rake's Progress at Glyndebourne in 1975. But, characteristically, it has also prompted a few theories. First that his visual perception has actually improved as his hearing has declined. "Someone who can't see locates themselves in space through sound. If you can't hear you locate yourself visually. And as someone attuned to the visual world it is very noticeable. I see more."

 昨年読んだインタヴューの中で初めて、ホックニィが若いときから聴覚を失い始めたことを知った。それを受けての発言で、視覚が弱い僕にはとても励まされる意見。インタヴューの中では、ピカソが生きていたらiPadを使っていたに違いないという発言も面白かった。

Film.jpg
これは写真による作品だけど、インタヴューの中にある「九つのカメラ」の意味が良く判る。

The-Arrival-of-Spring-in--004.jpg
そして、これがiPadによる作品の一つ。

 内部情報として、展覧会のプレス・ヴューがまだにもかかわらずここまで展示の中身が知らされるのはけっこう異例だと思う。それだけ期待が大きいのだろう。レオナルドのように前売り券がすぐに売り切れるとは思えないけど、プレスの取り上げ方によっては一気に売れてしまう可能性もある。おそらくレヴューは今週末、もしくは来週の月曜日に掲載されるのではないかと思う。
 これが日本に行くとは思えないし、触れたようにいくつかの作品はすでにイギリス国外に出ている。絵画に興味があるとかではなく、イギリスの国宝級の74歳の画家が精力的に創造する「アート」をリアル・タイムで経験できる貴重な機会だと思う。


[追記:1月16日]
 今日の日中、自分のチケットを手配しようと前売り券の状況を見てみたら、驚いたことに1月中はほぼ完売、2月は中旬まで8割くらいがすでに売れている。うかつだった。



船舶産業受難の週末

2012.01.15
ラジオのニュースだと、韓国籍のタンカーが大破したとか。ヨーロッパでは、トスカナ沿岸でイタリアの豪華クルーズ船が沈没のニュース。

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jan/14/captain-arrested-italian-cruise-ship

The-cruise-ship-Costa-Con-004.jpg

The-cruise-ship-Costa-Con-003.jpg



羊が好きな友人たちは買うだろうか

2012.01.10
まだひと月以上も先だけど、2月24日に羊のイラストを利用した切手のシリーズが発売されるようだ。

http://www.norphil.co.uk/2012/02d-sheep_pictorial_faststamps.htm

Royal Mail is going down on the farm in 2012 with its new series of Post and Go stamps. British Farm Animals is the first in a series of three issues that will explore some of the many traditional breeds of sheep, cattle and pigs to be found on farms in the UK. Post & Go terminals allow customers to weigh their letters and packets, pay for and print postage labels and stamps without the need to visit the counter. The first Post & Go machine was trialled in The Galleries Post Office® in Bristol in 2008.

120224_sheep_faststamps_pack.jpg
上から、Soay, Leicester Longwool, Welsh Mountain Badgerface, Dalesbred, Jacob, Suffolk

 羊というとニュー・ジーランドやオーストラリア、また中近東の放牧民を真っ先に思い浮かべる人がいるかもしれない。でも、イギリスにも沢山羊がいる。この切手のシリーズは、羊が好きな友人たちにはたまらないだろう。

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ロアルド・ダールの記念切手

2012.01.10
今日、1月10日に、ロアルド・ダールの作品を使った記念切手が発売になる。もう午前9時を過ぎているからすでに郵便局の窓口で買える。

http://www.norphil.co.uk/2012/01b-roald_dahl.htm

120110_1stcharlie.jpg

120110_66_Fantastic_Mr_Fox.jpg

 個人的には、ダールの作品は何一つ読んだことがない。縁がないということだろう。でも、彼の作品が好きな人にはたまらない切手なのだろうと思う。

 オリンピック・パラリンピックの切手が話題になるだろうけど、今年もロイヤル・メイルはかなり記念切手に力を入れいるように思う。



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Ménerbesのトリュフ・マーケットとメサイア・コンサート

2012.01.05
12月28日は、メネアブがトリュフの香りに包まれた一日だった。カフェのご主人、パトリックさんによると、このマーケットは毎年、12月最後の日曜日に催されるとのこと。2011年は、最後の日曜日がクリスマス・ディだったので、28日に開催された。

 開始の午前9時から、続々と人が集まっていたけど、すぐに購入する人はそれほどいなかったようだ。やっぱり高価なのだろう。

TruffeMarket1.jpeg

 100グラムでいったいいくつのトリュフがかえるのか?

TruffeMarket2.jpeg

 これで、トリュフを向こう側が透けて見えるくらい薄く、薄く削る。

TruffeMarket3.jpeg

 この植物の根っこにトリュフができるそうだけど。

TruffeMarket4.jpeg

 豚さん。

 機会があればという条件付だけどキャビアも好きだし、今回、この好機を逃してなるものかといわんばかりにフォワ・グラもがっつり食べた。でも、トリュフはどこがいいのだかさっぱりわからない。マーケットの終わりには、「このにおいもまあ良いものだ」とは感じるようになったものの、進んで大枚はたいて食したくなることはなさそう。そのほうが、破産に至ることも回避できるだろうし。

 28日の夜は、マーケットの締めくくりとして、メネアブの教会でヘンデルのメサイアのコンサート。運良くチケットを購入できたので、これも旅の楽しみと期待して赴いた。


Le Messie de Haendel

Conducter: Martina Niernhaussen

Soprano: Sylvie-Claire Vautrin

Counter-Tenor: Frederic Gondelmann

Tenor: Thierry Denante

Bass: Patrick Alliotte


 オランダ出身の女性指揮者のエレガントな振る舞い、ソリストたちも主にフランス国内で活動している皆さんだったけど、素晴らしい歌唱だった。だめだったのがコーラス。案内にはアマチュアと書いてあったけど、いまどきアマチュアといってもこれほど酷いのはありえないのではないかというくらい、男声が腰砕けだった。低いレンジがほとんど歌になっていなかった。それを除けば、クリスマス・シーズンの旅行をさらに楽しくしてくれたコンサートだった。

小さな銀行ができること:Bank of Cattaraugus

2012.01.03
メネアブ滞在中、紙媒体の英字新聞で定期的に購入できたのはヘラトリだけ。アメリカの新聞をたまに読むと、けっこう面白い。いくつか面白い記事があった中で、最も読みふけったのは、ニュー・ヨーク発、地元密着の小さな銀行がしていることについて。

 メガバンクと小さな銀行、どちらが「正しい」ということを言っているわけではないし、僕自身、そのような判断は下せない。ただ、金融というとどうしてもメガバンクや投資銀行のほうに流れてしまう意識を、「そうか、銀行とひとくくりにすることができない銀行もあるのか」と気づかせてくれた。


The Bank Around the Corner
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/25/nyregion/the-bank-of-cattaraugus-new-york-states-smallest-bank-plays-an-outsize-role.html

By ALAN FEUER
Published: December 23, 2011

AS winter approached, a retired secretary here named Carol Bonner was putting snow tires on her car when she noticed that her back-right rim was bent. Ms. Bonner took the car to Otto’s Auto Body Shop and got bad news: the work was going to run her $244 ― more than half of her $417 monthly pension check.

Without a credit card or enough saved up to replace the rim herself, Ms. Bonner, who is 61 and cares for her sister Jane, who is disabled, did the only thing she could do: she went down to the Bank of Cattaraugus and took out a $300 loan. The bank, in a reversal of the usual process, had bailed her out before. A few years ago, when Ms. Bonner fell behind on her property taxes and was forced to sell her home, the bank’s president, Patrick J. Cullen, who held the mortgage on the house, had his son Thomas buy it. Thomas Cullen, who lives in Chicago, never intended to live there. Ms. Bonner and her sister were able to stay as renters.

“The whole thing was incredible,” Ms. Bonner said the other day, a single pine branch hanging in her living room in lieu of a full Christmas tree, which she could not afford. “I just didn’t realize there were people like that in the world, people who would help you.

“Especially,” she said, “a banker.”


This has not exactly been a time of great love for bankers. Amid the continuing foreclosure crisis and Occupy Wall Street’s campaign against “the 1 percent,” it is easy to forget that not all banks are complicated giants, trading in derivatives and re-hypothecating valueless collateral.

The Bank of Cattaraugus, for example, is by asset size the state’s smallest bank (one branch, eight employees, no credit default swaps) and yet it plays an outsize role in this hilly village an hour south of Buffalo: housing its deposits, lending to its neediest inhabitants and recently granting forbearance on a mortgage when the borrower, a bus mechanic, temporarily lost his job after shooting off his finger while holstering his gun.

If it sounds old-fashioned, it is. It’s not the kind of bank you’ll find anymore in New York City, where multiple branches and capitalizations counted in 10 figures are the norm. With $12 million in total assets, the Bank of Cattaraugus is a microbank, well below the $10 billion ceiling that defines small banks. It exists in a seemingly different universe from the mammoth banks-turned-financial-services-conglomerates, like Citigroup ($1.9 trillion in assets) or JPMorgan Chase ($2.25 trillion).

With obvious exceptions, business at the Bank of Cattaraugus hasn’t changed much since 1882, when 20 prominent residents ― among them a Civil War surgeon and a cousin of Davy Crockett ― established the bank to safeguard townsfolk’s money and to finance local commerce.

In its 130-year history, the bank has rarely booked a profit for itself in excess of $50,000. Last year, Mr. Cullen said, it made $5,000. He and his officers are industry anomalies: bankers who avoid high-risk and high-growth tactics in order to reinvest in their community’s economy.

“My examiners always ask me, ‘When are you going to grow?’ ” said Mr. Cullen, a Cattaraugus native who is 64 and has the prosperous stoutness of a storybook banker. “But where is it written I have to grow? We take care of our customers. The truth is we probably couldn’t grow too much in a town like this.”

While it faces many of the same regulations that govern larger banks, it operates according to an antiquated theory of the business: that a bank should be a utility, like the power company, and serve as a broker between savers and borrowers in its community.

Cattaraugus, nestled in the woods of the misleadingly named Rich Valley, is a town of limited prospects. (“We’re not on the way to anywhere,” Mr. Cullen said.) Manufacturing, which once thrived here, has more or less died ― except for the Setterstix factory on South Main Street, which produces paper lollipop handles. The largest employer in the village is the school district, and many village residents survive, like Ms. Bonner, on pensions or government subsidies, in homes that have an average mortgage of $30,000.

Mr. Cullen’s bank is the only one in town ― the next-closest is in Little Valley, seven miles away.

In this difficult environment, Mr. Cullen ― like the bank’s former president, his father, L. E. Cullen ― occupies a paternal, if not quite paternalistic, position: a well-to-do man who is sufficiently familiar with the local economy that he does not use credit scores when handing out a loan.

Numbers don’t tell the story here,” he said one day, relating the tale of an Amish customer who wanted $85,000 to consolidate his debts. Even though the man earned only $2,300 a year ― from selling greenhouse starter kits ― Mr. Cullen gave him the loan.

“If you know Amish culture, you know his sons work and that everything they earn goes to him until they’re 21 or married,” Mr. Cullen said, observing that the man had eight sons, each earning at least $10 an hour. “So he was fine, but none of that shows up on a credit score.”

Mr. Cullen’s first job at the bank was wrapping pennies for his father at age 5. When he was 9, he helped repossess a car. After two years at the Marine-Midland Bank in Buffalo, he joined the family bank as an assistant cashier ― he was 24 ― and he has been there ever since, commuting each morning to his office on Main Street from his house around the corner: a 20-second drive.

The bank remains a family business. His daughter, Colleen C. Young, is the chief financial officer, and his wife, Joan A. Cullen, is the corporate secretary (she used to keep the books, but it was thought to be improper that the bank auditor slept in the same bed as the president).

The Cullens ― there are three more children, all sons and all in finance in Chicago ― are that oddest of commodities: a beloved banking family.

“They saved our lives,” said Duane Kelley, a retired Setterstix worker who, a few years ago, lost the house he lived in with his wife to a $15,000 tax lien. Mr. Cullen bought the house at a county land auction with the bank’s money and returned it to the Kelleys. They are paying him back through a 15-year loan.

SMALL banks have been dying for 20 years. In 1990, there were 12,000 banks nationwide with assets of less than $10 billion; now, there are 7,350. The country’s top five banks have, meanwhile, grown relentlessly: In 1995, they held 11 percent of all deposits; last year it was 34 percent.

For several years, the small-banking sector has been pinched on one side by the rising costs of compliance and technology, and on the other by historically low interest rates (which cut into lending margins). In the last year, though, anger over big banks’ fees and mortgage lending practices has turned consumers against the mega-banks, and smaller institutions have been the beneficiaries.

The publisher Arianna Huffington has been behind the Move Your Money Project, which encourages people to take their money out of big banks and deposit it in local financial institutions. (Slogan: Invest in Main Street, Not Wall Street.) Ms. Huffington produced a video based on the Christmas banking classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” to support the campaign. BankTransferDay.org similarly claims to have persuaded 400,000 people to switch their funds from big banks to not-for-profit credit unions. Occupy Wall Street, which has pretty much turned “bank” into a four-letter word, has deposited nearly $500,000 into Amalgamated Bank, a big small bank in New York City owned by the labor union Unite Here.

Edward Grebow, Amalgamated’s president, posted signs in his branches supporting the movement and marched with its members in October. Perhaps as a result, the number of new checking accounts at Amalgamated has doubled in the months since it took on Occupy Wall Street as a customer. But the increased business came at a delicate moment for the bank: under new rules passed in the wake of the subprime lending meltdown, Amalgamated was forced to raise fresh capital. In September, the bank sold a 40 percent stake in its business to two giants of the private-equities markets: Wilbur L. Ross Jr., a billionaire investor, and Ronald W. Burkle, a California supermarket magnate.

According to Camden R. Fine, the president of the Independent Community Bankers of America, an advocacy group for small banks, nearly every bank regulation of the last 20 years was put in place in response to real or perceived malfeasance by the country’s largest banks.

Community banks are paying for the greed and overreach of the biggest players in the market,” he said. “For a small bank in Ashland, Mo., say, it’s absurd to apply the body of regulation that a Citicorp has to deal with.”

The question facing community banks today is whether their current vogue can offset the abiding trend toward consolidation. Even in Cattaraugus ― population 950 ― Mr. Cullen says he receives at least two offers a week from larger institutions that want to buy him out. He claims to be unsurprised by these overtures, though his business is exceptionally simple: 80 percent of the loans in his portfolio are mortgages, a third of them arising from marital separation. (“Two people are living together; they split,” he said. “Now, instead of one house, you need two.”) Still, his answer to potential buyers is always the same: no thanks. “There’s nothing they can offer us,” he said, “that we can’t do ourselves.”

The core problem at banks like his is that the comparative advantages they offer ― customer service, access to managers, an intimate knowledge of borrowers ― do not always translate to the bottom line, even if they do yield dividends in public relations.

“They do things that big banks won’t do,” said Paul Macakanja, the owner of the Jenny Lee diner, which sits on Main Street facing Mr. Cullen’s bank. The diner has no photocopier, and tellers at the bank, he said, will run off copies of his menu, free of charge. “They support you personally,” he added, “because your success is their success.”

It is for these and other reasons that Mr. Fine argued poignantly on behalf of small banks. They hold 20 percent of the country’s assets, he said, and yet write more than half of its small-business loans. “Customers can say, ‘I know where my money is ― it’s down there eight blocks away,’ ” he said. “They can walk in and talk to the president and know he isn’t sucking in their money and betting against them on proprietary securities.”


 ヘラトリの紙面似掲載されていたのはここまで。読み終わって考えたのは、資本主義社会、金融市場崇拝主義社会は、自分の身の丈を見誤り、そしてその誤りを認めたくないという一方的な動機に突き動かされているのかなと。以下は、おそらくNYT本紙に掲載されたものと推測

Nonetheless, 400 community banks have disappeared in the last three years.

IN 1982, Mr. Cullen published a chapbook to celebrate his bank’s centennial. The book contained a photograph of the bank’s first president, the elaborately bearded Oscar F. Beach, and another of himself, from childhood, which bore the caption: “Ms. Berger’s kindergarten class 1953.”

“Banking, as one might imagine, is a very interesting business,” he wrote. “In a rural area, it is also a very important business. When customers entrust their life savings to us, we treat it as if it were our own.”

Beyond a business, Mr. Cullen sees banking as an instrument ― one that can shape and preserve the history of his village, which he cites with an archivist’s fluidity. His office is cluttered with local artifacts: a mug from the Third Annual Amish Relief Auction; an old sign reading, “Cattaraugus Chowder & Marching Society.” One of his most treasured possessions is a leather map bag that belonged to Theodore Roosevelt, who passed through town during his New York gubernatorial campaign.

For the last six years, Mr. Cullen has owned and operated the American Museum of Cutlery across the street from his bank, which honors Cattaraugus’s onetime pre-eminence in the knife-making trade.

Between his day job and his other hobbies ― antique firearms, an Irish band ― Mr. Cullen runs the Historic Cattaraugus Corporation, a nonprofit business that has purchased several buildings in town (the 1909 theater, the 1915 Ford dealership) and refurbished them and rented them out, or simply stopped them from deteriorating. The idea came to him in 1990, he said, when a schoolteacher left town and simply abandoned his house. Not long after, the garage collapsed.

The property was dangerous enough that the school district would not let students walk by. It was an eyesore; it was dragging property values down. “I went and camped out at his new place, and when he went to work, I said, ‘Listen, you can’t do this to our community,’ ” Mr. Cullen recalled. He persuaded the man to deed the house back to the bank. The bank paid for a renovation and eventually resold it ― at a loss of only $500, Mr. Cullen said.

From 1990 to 2003, when the historical corporation was formed, Mr. Cullen invested nearly $1 million of the bank’s money in properties in the village, often getting it back, but not always. “Banks tend not to do that sort of thing,” he stated dryly. (His wife, more succinctly, said, “Growth isn’t Patrick’s thing.”) Now, however, with grants from the state, Mr. Cullen has bought, among other things, the glorious old moldering hotel in town, and he is patiently waiting for an opportunity to put it to use.

The corporation recently acquired Mr. Cullen’s most cherished local property: the 4.5-acre plot where Cattaraugus was founded (the same spot where, not coincidentally, the campaigning Teddy Roosevelt addressed townsfolk from the back of a train). Dreaming as only a small-town banker dreams, Mr. Cullen plans to rebuild the original buildings ― from the shingle maker’s shop to the stagecoach station ― and open them to the public as a Colonial Williamsburg-style theme park.

“If you look at Williamsburg’s Web site, they claim the park employs 3,800 people,” he said. “Give us 5 percent of that, I’ll claim success.”

Mr. Cullen hints that there is interest in his project among certain personages in Washington ― he is a banker, after all, who knows other bankers, who know politicians ― but it would contradict the very purpose of the project, he said, to finance it with federal money. Cattaraugans know Cattaraugus. The venture will be locally grown.

“Everyone will be involved,” he said. “The bank, the church, local government, the people ― everyone will have a stake. Creating that experience is what it means to be American, in a sense. It’s what it means to be from a place.”


 フランスに行く前に、ガーディアンでオキュパイ・ウォール・ストリート運動についてけっこう冷静に考えさせられる記事を読んだ。後日、紹介するつもり。

Ménerbes(メネアブ)、北部プロヴァンスの丘の上の小さな村

2012.01.02
Menerbes3.jpg
(from the bottom)

12月24日から30日まで、フランス第2の都市(大きさ)マルセイユから車で1時間ほどのところにあるMénerbes(メネアブ)という、丘の上の小さな村に滞在しました。主目的は、高齢の友人が死ぬまでにもう一度会いに来て欲しい(あと10年は元気そうでしたけど)と乞われたもので、これについては何も書きません。
 友人が家族そろってメネアブに移り住むまで、名前すら聞いたことのない村でした。で、泥縄ですが、滞在2日目にネットで調べたところ、20年以上も前に出版されてプロヴァンス・ブームを招いた「プロヴァンスの12ヶ月」の著者、ピーター・メイルが住んでいた村とのこと。道理で、友人が手配しておいてくれたレンタル・ハウスの利用案内に矢鱈とメイルの名前が。

http://www.provenceweb.fr/e/vaucluse/menerbes/menerbes.htm

 メネアブの村自体は、丘の上にかたまっているので本当に小さいもの。直線距離にすれば大きくはありません。しかしながら、おそらく村が形成された時代、外的の進入を困難にさせるためという目的があったのでしょう、村内の道は入り組んでいます。その入り組んだ道を歩くのが楽しいからでしょう、クリスマスとはいえ日中は訪れる人が多く、坂道の頂上で素晴らしい眺望に見入っている人が沢山いました。


(mist in the morning)

 メネアブ内のもっとも大きな観光施設は、丘の頂上にあるルベロン地域のワインとトリュフの情報を集めた建物。

http://www.vin-truffe-luberon.com

 そのほかには14世紀に建てたられたという教会、パン屋が一軒、新聞屋兼メネアブの社交場となっているカフェ、数件のレストラン、不動産オフィスが5,6軒、そして肉屋、郵便局、スーパーマーケットにアート・ギャラリィが2軒。それと、村から少しはなれたところに、コルクスクリューの博物館があるそうです。ホテルやB&Bのような宿泊施設は全くありません。その代わり、友人家族が手配してくれたようなレンタル・ハウスが数件あるそうです。

http://www.provence-rentals.org/

 泊まったワン・ベッド・ルームの家は、眺めは素晴らしく、驚いたことに床暖房。今回、純粋な観光だけではないので仕方ないにしても、個人的には「暮らしているように外国を経験したい」というコンセプトには懐疑的です。わざわざ見知らぬ土地に来て、見知らぬ家のキッチンの使い方を理解するために数時間を無駄にして、且つ、ディッシュ・ウォッシャーまであるとはいえ食器の片づけをすることはできれば考えたくない、というのが異国に行くときの基本姿勢。でも、僕と対極の考えを持つ方には、この家はまさに、「メネアブで暮らしている」ようでした。どうやら北米からの利用者が多いようで、案内は全てアメリカ英語。フランスとは思えない、手取り足取り解説は素晴らしいものでした。

 メネアブの住人の社交場である、Café du Progresのご主人、パトリックさんだけが友人を除けば唯一英語を話せる方でした。メネアブやルベロンのことにとても詳しく、話はとても面白いもの。パトリックさんとしては、村の暮らしが大きく変わらない程度に、「プロヴァンスの12ヶ月」出版後数年のブームが再び来ることを望んでいるような印象を持ちました。反面、僕みたいにフランス語を学ぶことなど考えもしない怠け者観光客を呼び込むためには、英語を話せる人がもっといたほうが良いのではとも。でも、さらに感じたことは、メネアブで暮らす人々にとって、生活の中心はメネアブ。パリでも、ロンドンでもイギリスでもない。メネアブの外で起きていることは彼らにとってプライオリティではないのだろうな、言い換えれば、ロンドンが2012年世界の中心になるに違いないと思い込んでいる僕自身の不遜な態度は彼らに全く意味を成さないであろうことを考えました。

 前述の通り、メネアブにはホテル等の宿泊施設はない(はず)なので、近隣の村々を数日かけて回るとすれば、拠点はLourmarinが手ごろかと思います。また、Lourmarinの先にある村の中心にある噴水で知られるCucuronにもホテルが数軒あるのでここも滞在候補になると思います。
 今回の滞在中、観て回った中ではLacostehttp://www.provenceweb.fr/e/vaucluse/lacoste/lacoste.htm)がとても美しかったです。


(a view from Lacoste)

村の中には行かなかったのですが、ボニュー(ここはけっこう知られていると思います)から村に向う道路から見上げるLacosteの景観は、僕のカメラでは絶対に再現できないほど。リンクしたペイジには書いてありませんが、あまりの美しさに、イヴ・サン・ローランかピエール・カルダンが村を買ったと聞いたのですが。いずれにしろ、このLacosteはヴォクルーズ、およびルベロン地域では観にいくべきでしょう。

Why Does E=mc2?: (and Why Should We Care?)

2012.01.01
8809702031390.jpg

旅行に本を持っていくようになったのは最近のこと。今回、フランスに行く前に選んだのは、BBCの科学番組で人気の高い、マンチェスター大学の物理学教授のブライアン・コックスによる(共著)「一般相対性理論」を物理の素養がない人たちにも理解してもらうための本(だと思う)。

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2010/oct/18/einstein-relativity-science-book-review
ガーディアンの書評

 立花隆の「脳を鍛える」でいくつかの用語を理解したから大丈夫だと思ったのだけど、英語で読むとまったく別の理論を読んでいる感じ。行きつ戻りつするからいつ読み終わるのか全く判らない。ちなみに、読み終えることができても「一般相対性理論」を理解できるとは自分に期待していない。

 このような本を読む理由はいくつかある。まず、判らないなりにも、自分が持っていない思考方法を知りたい。「一般相対性理論」のことが、いつ何時、どんな場で出てきても一応会話についていけるように。さらに、日本語でわかっていても、英語で語られる場合の言葉を知っておきたい。例えば、ミュー中間子が英語では「muon」というのは知らなかった。今、格闘しているのは、invariansという単語。「脳を鍛える」でも大きく取り上げられていたけど、トーマス・ヘンリィ・ハックスレィをはじめとするハックスレィ・ファミリィの功績を知ることは、イギリスにおける科学の発展の流れを知ることになるのかな。

 主題を理解するのが難しい一方で、筆者たちが読者の興味をひきつけておくために挟み込むコメントが面白い。どこの章だか忘れてしまったけど、マックスウェルの電磁気学の方程式や相対性理論に人類が到達するのに、どうしてこれほどまでの長い年月を必要としたのか、との提起はとても興味深い。モラル・スタンダードが安定するまで、人類のDNAがこれらの定理の出現をとめていたのだろうかとか、でも、生物界では人類だけがお互いを殺しあっている種族だからそういうわけでもないだろうしと興味は尽きない。そのカレンダーが2012年で止っているマヤ文明を取り上げる記事が出始めたし、トンでも科学をもてはやすメディアの動向には気をつけたいもの。

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一度太ったらやせられない?!:The Fat Trap

2012.01.01
記事の前半しか読んでいないけど、僕も含めて年末年始に食べ過ぎた方には気になる記事でしょう。多くの人が腹八分目を心がければ、食料危機の速度が少し鈍るかもしれないし。2012年が、日本にとって、そして地球にとってよい1年になることを祈って。

The Fat Trap
By TARA PARKER-POPE
Published: December 28, 2011

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/01/magazine/tara-parker-pope-fat-trap.html

For 15 years, Joseph Proietto has been helping people lose weight. When these obese patients arrive at his weight-loss clinic in Australia, they are determined to slim down. And most of the time, he says, they do just that, sticking to the clinic’s program and dropping excess pounds. But then, almost without exception, the weight begins to creep back. In a matter of months or years, the entire effort has come undone, and the patient is fat again. “It has always seemed strange to me,” says Proietto, who is a physician at the University of Melbourne. “These are people who are very motivated to lose weight, who achieve weight loss most of the time without too much trouble and yet, inevitably, gradually, they regain the weight.”

Anyone who has ever dieted knows that lost pounds often return, and most of us assume the reason is a lack of discipline or a failure of willpower. But Proietto suspected that there was more to it, and he decided to take a closer look at the biological state of the body after weight loss.

Beginning in 2009, he and his team recruited 50 obese men and women. The men weighed an average of 233 pounds; the women weighed about 200 pounds. Although some people dropped out of the study, most of the patients stuck with the extreme low-calorie diet, which consisted of special shakes called Optifast and two cups of low-starch vegetables, totaling just 500 to 550 calories a day for eight weeks. Ten weeks in, the dieters lost an average of 30 pounds.

At that point, the 34 patients who remained stopped dieting and began working to maintain the new lower weight. Nutritionists counseled them in person and by phone, promoting regular exercise and urging them to eat more vegetables and less fat. But despite the effort, they slowly began to put on weight. After a year, the patients already had regained an average of 11 of the pounds they struggled so hard to lose. They also reported feeling far more hungry and preoccupied with food than before they lost the weight.

While researchers have known for decades that the body undergoes various metabolic and hormonal changes while it’s losing weight, the Australian team detected something new. A full year after significant weight loss, these men and women remained in what could be described as a biologically altered state. Their still-plump bodies were acting as if they were starving and were working overtime to regain the pounds they lost. For instance, a gastric hormone called ghrelin, often dubbed the “hunger hormone,” was about 20 percent higher than at the start of the study. Another hormone associated with suppressing hunger, peptide YY, was also abnormally low. Levels of leptin, a hormone that suppresses hunger and increases metabolism, also remained lower than expected. A cocktail of other hormones associated with hunger and metabolism all remained significantly changed compared to pre-dieting levels. It was almost as if weight loss had put their bodies into a unique metabolic state, a sort of post-dieting syndrome that set them apart from people who hadn’t tried to lose weight in the first place.

“What we see here is a coordinated defense mechanism with multiple components all directed toward making us put on weight,” Proietto says. “This, I think, explains the high failure rate in obesity treatment.”

While the findings from Proietto and colleagues, published this fall in The New England Journal of Medicine, are not conclusive ― the study was small and the findings need to be replicated ― the research has nonetheless caused a stir in the weight-loss community, adding to a growing body of evidence that challenges conventional thinking about obesity, weight loss and willpower. For years, the advice to the overweight and obese has been that we simply need to eat less and exercise more. While there is truth to this guidance, it fails to take into account that the human body continues to fight against weight loss long after dieting has stopped. This translates into a sobering reality: once we become fat, most of us, despite our best efforts, will probably stay fat.

I have always felt perplexed about my inability to keep weight off. I know the medical benefits of weight loss, and I don’t drink sugary sodas or eat fast food. I exercise regularly ― a few years ago, I even completed a marathon. Yet during the 23 years since graduating from college, I’ve lost 10 or 20 pounds at a time, maintained it for a little while and then gained it all back and more, to the point where I am now easily 60 pounds overweight.

I wasn’t overweight as a child, but I can’t remember a time when my mother, whose weight probably fluctuated between 150 and 250 pounds, wasn’t either on a diet or, in her words, cheating on her diet. Sometimes we ate healthful, balanced meals; on other days dinner consisted of a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken. As a high-school cross-country runner, I never worried about weight, but in college, when my regular training runs were squeezed out by studying and socializing, the numbers on the scale slowly began to move up. As adults, my three sisters and I all struggle with weight, as do many members of my extended family. My mother died of esophageal cancer six years ago. It was her great regret that in the days before she died, the closest medical school turned down her offer to donate her body because she was obese.

It’s possible that the biological cards were stacked against me from the start. Researchers know that obesity tends to run in families, and recent science suggests that even the desire to eat higher-calorie foods may be influenced by heredity. But untangling how much is genetic and how much is learned through family eating habits is difficult. What is clear is that some people appear to be prone to accumulating extra fat while others seem to be protected against it.

In a seminal series of experiments published in the 1990s, the Canadian researchers Claude Bouchard and Angelo Tremblay studied 31 pairs of male twins ranging in age from 17 to 29, who were sometimes overfed and sometimes put on diets. (None of the twin pairs were at risk for obesity based on their body mass or their family history.) In one study, 12 sets of the twins were put under 24-hour supervision in a college dormitory. Six days a week they ate 1,000 extra calories a day, and one day they were allowed to eat normally. They could read, play video games, play cards and watch television, but exercise was limited to one 30-minute daily walk. Over the course of the 120-day study, the twins consumed 84,000 extra calories beyond their basic needs.

That experimental binge should have translated into a weight gain of roughly 24 pounds (based on 3,500 calories to a pound). But some gained less than 10 pounds, while others gained as much as 29 pounds. The amount of weight gained and how the fat was distributed around the body closely matched among brothers, but varied considerably among the different sets of twins. Some brothers gained three times as much fat around their abdomens as others, for instance. When the researchers conducted similar exercise studies with the twins, they saw the patterns in reverse, with some twin sets losing more pounds than others on the same exercise regimen. The findings, the researchers wrote, suggest a form of “biological determinism” that can make a person susceptible to weight gain or loss.

But while there is widespread agreement that at least some risk for obesity is inherited, identifying a specific genetic cause has been a challenge. In October 2010, the journal Nature Genetics reported that researchers have so far confirmed 32 distinct genetic variations associated with obesity or body-mass index. One of the most common of these variations was identified in April 2007 by a British team studying the genetics of Type 2 diabetes. According to Timothy Frayling at the Institute of Biomedical and Clinical Science at the University of Exeter, people who carried a variant known as FTO faced a much higher risk of obesity ― 30 percent higher if they had one copy of the variant; 60 percent if they had two.

This FTO variant is surprisingly common; about 65 percent of people of European or African descent and an estimated 27 to 44 percent of Asians are believed to carry at least one copy of it. Scientists don’t understand how the FTO variation influences weight gain, but studies in children suggest the trait plays a role in eating habits. In one 2008 study led by Colin Palmer of the University of Dundee in Scotland, Scottish schoolchildren were given snacks of orange drinks and muffins and then allowed to graze on a buffet of grapes, celery, potato chips and chocolate buttons. All the food was carefully monitored so the researchers knew exactly what was consumed. Although all the children ate about the same amount of food, as weighed in grams, children with the FTO variant were more likely to eat foods with higher fat and calorie content. They weren’t gorging themselves, but they consumed, on average, about 100 calories more than children who didn’t carry the gene. Those who had the gene variant had about four pounds more body fat than noncarriers.

I have been tempted to send in my own saliva sample for a DNA test to find out if my family carries a genetic predisposition for obesity. But even if the test came back negative, it would only mean that my family doesn’t carry a known, testable genetic risk for obesity. Recently the British television show “Embarrassing Fat Bodies” asked Frayling’s lab to test for fat-promoting genes, and the results showed one very overweight family had a lower-than-average risk for obesity.

A positive result, telling people they are genetically inclined to stay fat, might be self-fulfilling. In February, The New England Journal of Medicine published a report on how genetic testing for a variety of diseases affected a person’s mood and health habits. Over all, the researchers found no effect from disease-risk testing, but there was a suggestion, though it didn’t reach statistical significance, that after testing positive for fat-promoting genes, some people were more likely to eat fatty foods, presumably because they thought being fat was their genetic destiny and saw no sense in fighting it.

While knowing my genetic risk might satisfy my curiosity, I also know that heredity, at best, would explain only part of why I became overweight. I’m much more interested in figuring out what I can do about it now.

The National Weight Control Registry tracks 10,000 people who have lost weight and have kept it off. “We set it up in response to comments that nobody ever succeeds at weight loss,” says Rena Wing, a professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Brown University’s Alpert Medical School, who helped create the registry with James O. Hill, director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of Colorado at Denver. “We had two goals: to prove there were people who did, and to try to learn from them about what they do to achieve this long-term weight loss.” Anyone who has lost 30 pounds and kept it off for at least a year is eligible to join the study, though the average member has lost 70 pounds and remained at that weight for six years.

Wing says that she agrees that physiological changes probably do occur that make permanent weight loss difficult, but she says the larger problem is environmental, and that people struggle to keep weight off because they are surrounded by food, inundated with food messages and constantly presented with opportunities to eat. “We live in an environment with food cues all the time,” Wing says. “We’ve taught ourselves over the years that one of the ways to reward yourself is with food. It’s hard to change the environment and the behavior.”

There is no consistent pattern to how people in the registry lost weight ― some did it on Weight Watchers, others with Jenny Craig, some by cutting carbs on the Atkins diet and a very small number lost weight through surgery. But their eating and exercise habits appear to reflect what researchers find in the lab: to lose weight and keep it off, a person must eat fewer calories and exercise far more than a person who maintains the same weight naturally. Registry members exercise about an hour or more each day ― the average weight-loser puts in the equivalent of a four-mile daily walk, seven days a week. They get on a scale every day in order to keep their weight within a narrow range. They eat breakfast regularly. Most watch less than half as much television as the overall population. They eat the same foods and in the same patterns consistently each day and don’t “cheat” on weekends or holidays. They also appear to eat less than most people, with estimates ranging from 50 to 300 fewer daily calories.

Kelly Brownell, director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University, says that while the 10,000 people tracked in the registry are a useful resource, they also represent a tiny percentage of the tens of millions of people who have tried unsuccessfully to lose weight. “All it means is that there are rare individuals who do manage to keep it off,” Brownell says. “You find these people are incredibly vigilant about maintaining their weight. Years later they are paying attention to every calorie, spending an hour a day on exercise. They never don’t think about their weight.”

Janice Bridge, a registry member who has successfully maintained a 135-pound weight loss for about five years, is a perfect example. “It’s one of the hardest things there is,” she says. “It’s something that has to be focused on every minute. I’m not always thinking about food, but I am always aware of food.”

Bridge, who is 66 and lives in Davis, Calif., was overweight as a child and remembers going on her first diet of 1,400 calories a day at 14. At the time, her slow pace of weight loss prompted her doctor to accuse her of cheating. Friends told her she must not be paying attention to what she was eating. “No one would believe me that I was doing everything I was told,” she says. “You can imagine how tremendously depressing it was and what a feeling of rebellion and anger was building up.”

After peaking at 330 pounds in 2004, she tried again to lose weight. She managed to drop 30 pounds, but then her weight loss stalled. In 2006, at age 60, she joined a medically supervised weight-loss program with her husband, Adam, who weighed 310 pounds. After nine months on an 800-calorie diet, she slimmed down to 165 pounds. Adam lost about 110 pounds and now weighs about 200.

During the first years after her weight loss, Bridge tried to test the limits of how much she could eat. She used exercise to justify eating more. The death of her mother in 2009 consumed her attention; she lost focus and slowly regained 30 pounds. She has decided to try to maintain this higher weight of 195, which is still 135 pounds fewer than her heaviest weight.

“It doesn’t take a lot of variance from my current maintenance for me to pop on another two or three pounds,” she says. “It’s been a real struggle to stay at this weight, but it’s worth it, it’s good for me, it makes me feel better. But my body would put on weight almost instantaneously if I ever let up.”

So she never lets up. Since October 2006 she has weighed herself every morning and recorded the result in a weight diary. She even carries a scale with her when she travels. In the past six years, she made only one exception to this routine: a two-week, no-weigh vacation in Hawaii.

She also weighs everything in the kitchen. She knows that lettuce is about 5 calories a cup, while flour is about 400. If she goes out to dinner, she conducts a Web search first to look at the menu and calculate calories to help her decide what to order. She avoids anything with sugar or white flour, which she calls her “gateway drugs” for cravings and overeating. She has also found that drinking copious amounts of water seems to help; she carries a 20-ounce water bottle and fills it five times a day. She writes down everything she eats. At night, she transfers all the information to an electronic record. Adam also keeps track but prefers to keep his record with pencil and paper.

“That transfer process is really important; it’s my accountability,” she says. “It comes up with the total number of calories I’ve eaten today and the amount of protein. I do a little bit of self-analysis every night.”

Bridge and her husband each sought the help of therapists, and in her sessions, Janice learned that she had a tendency to eat when she was bored or stressed. “We are very much aware of how our culture taught us to use food for all kinds of reasons that aren’t related to its nutritive value,” Bridge says.

Bridge supports her careful diet with an equally rigorous regimen of physical activity. She exercises from 100 to 120 minutes a day, six or seven days a week, often by riding her bicycle to the gym, where she takes a water-aerobics class. She also works out on an elliptical trainer at home and uses a recumbent bike to “walk” the dog, who loves to run alongside the low, three-wheeled machine. She enjoys gardening as a hobby but allows herself to count it as exercise on only those occasions when she needs to “garden vigorously.” Adam is also a committed exerciser, riding his bike at least two hours a day, five days a week.

Janice Bridge has used years of her exercise and diet data to calculate her own personal fuel efficiency. She knows that her body burns about three calories a minute during gardening, about four calories a minute on the recumbent bike and during water aerobics and about five a minute when she zips around town on her regular bike.

“Practically anyone will tell you someone biking is going to burn 11 calories a minute,” she says. “That’s not my body. I know it because of the statistics I’ve kept.”

Based on metabolism data she collected from the weight-loss clinic and her own calculations, she has discovered that to keep her current weight of 195 pounds, she can eat 2,000 calories a day as long as she burns 500 calories in exercise. She avoids junk food, bread and pasta and many dairy products and tries to make sure nearly a third of her calories come from protein. The Bridges will occasionally share a dessert, or eat an individual portion of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, so they know exactly how many calories they are ingesting. Because she knows errors can creep in, either because a rainy day cuts exercise short or a mismeasured snack portion adds hidden calories, she allows herself only 1,800 daily calories of food. (The average estimate for a similarly active woman of her age and size is about 2,300 calories.)

Just talking to Bridge about the effort required to maintain her weight is exhausting. I find her story inspiring, but it also makes me wonder whether I have what it takes to be thin. I have tried on several occasions (and as recently as a couple weeks ago) to keep a daily diary of my eating and exercise habits, but it’s easy to let it slide. I can’t quite imagine how I would ever make time to weigh and measure food when some days it’s all I can do to get dinner on the table between finishing my work and carting my daughter to dance class or volleyball practice. And while I enjoy exercising for 30- or 40-minute stretches, I also learned from six months of marathon training that devoting one to two hours a day to exercise takes an impossible toll on my family life.

Bridge concedes that having grown children and being retired make it easier to focus on her weight. “I don’t know if I could have done this when I had three kids living at home,” she says. “We know how unusual we are. It’s pretty easy to get angry with the amount of work and dedication it takes to keep this weight off. But the alternative is to not keep the weight off. ”

“I think many people who are anxious to lose weight don’t fully understand what the consequences are going to be, nor does the medical community fully explain this to people,” Rudolph Leibel, an obesity researcher at Columbia University in New York, says. “We don’t want to make them feel hopeless, but we do want to make them understand that they are trying to buck a biological system that is going to try to make it hard for them.”

Leibel and his colleague Michael Rosenbaum have pioneered much of what we know about the body’s response to weight loss. For 25 years, they have meticulously tracked about 130 individuals for six months or longer at a stretch. The subjects reside at their research clinic where every aspect of their bodies is measured. Body fat is determined by bone-scan machines. A special hood monitors oxygen consumption and carbon-dioxide output to precisely measure metabolism. Calories burned during digestion are tracked. Exercise tests measure maximum heart rate, while blood tests measure hormones and brain chemicals. Muscle biopsies are taken to analyze their metabolic efficiency. (Early in the research, even stool samples were collected and tested to make sure no calories went unaccounted for.) For their trouble, participants are paid $5,000 to $8,000.

Eventually, the Columbia subjects are placed on liquid diets of 800 calories a day until they lose 10 percent of their body weight. Once they reach the goal, they are subjected to another round of intensive testing as they try to maintain the new weight. The data generated by these experiments suggest that once a person loses about 10 percent of body weight, he or she is metabolically different than a similar-size person who is naturally the same weight.

The research shows that the changes that occur after weight loss translate to a huge caloric disadvantage of about 250 to 400 calories. For instance, one woman who entered the Columbia studies at 230 pounds was eating about 3,000 calories to maintain that weight. Once she dropped to 190 pounds, losing 17 percent of her body weight, metabolic studies determined that she needed about 2,300 daily calories to maintain the new lower weight. That may sound like plenty, but the typical 30-year-old 190-pound woman can consume about 2,600 calories to maintain her weight ― 300 more calories than the woman who dieted to get there.

Scientists are still learning why a weight-reduced body behaves so differently from a similar-size body that has not dieted. Muscle biopsies taken before, during and after weight loss show that once a person drops weight, their muscle fibers undergo a transformation, making them more like highly efficient “slow twitch” muscle fibers. A result is that after losing weight, your muscles burn 20 to 25 percent fewer calories during everyday activity and moderate aerobic exercise than those of a person who is naturally at the same weight. That means a dieter who thinks she is burning 200 calories during a brisk half-hour walk is probably using closer to 150 to 160 calories.

Another way that the body seems to fight weight loss is by altering the way the brain responds to food. Rosenbaum and his colleague Joy Hirsch, a neuroscientist also at Columbia, used functional magnetic resonance imaging to track the brain patterns of people before and after weight loss while they looked at objects like grapes, Gummi Bears, chocolate, broccoli, cellphones and yo-yos. After weight loss, when the dieter looked at food, the scans showed a bigger response in the parts of the brain associated with reward and a lower response in the areas associated with control. This suggests that the body, in order to get back to its pre-diet weight, induces cravings by making the person feel more excited about food and giving him or her less willpower to resist a high-calorie treat.

“After you’ve lost weight, your brain has a greater emotional response to food,” Rosenbaum says. “You want it more, but the areas of the brain involved in restraint are less active.” Combine that with a body that is now burning fewer calories than expected, he says, “and you’ve created the perfect storm for weight regain.” How long this state lasts isn’t known, but preliminary research at Columbia suggests that for as many as six years after weight loss, the body continues to defend the old, higher weight by burning off far fewer calories than would be expected. The problem could persist indefinitely. (The same phenomenon occurs when a thin person tries to drop about 10 percent of his or her body weight ― the body defends the higher weight.) This doesn’t mean it’s impossible to lose weight and keep it off; it just means it’s really, really difficult.

Lynn Haraldson, a 48-year-old woman who lives in Pittsburgh, reached 300 pounds in 2000. She joined Weight Watchers and managed to take her 5-foot-5 body down to 125 pounds for a brief time. Today, she’s a member of the National Weight Control Registry and maintains about 140 pounds by devoting her life to weight maintenance. She became a vegetarian, writes down what she eats every day, exercises at least five days a week and blogs about the challenges of weight maintenance. A former journalist and antiques dealer, she returned to school for a two-year program on nutrition and health; she plans to become a dietary counselor. She has also come to accept that she can never stop being “hypervigilant” about what she eats. “Everything has to change,” she says. “I’ve been up and down the scale so many times, always thinking I can go back to ‘normal,’ but I had to establish a new normal. People don’t like hearing that it’s not easy.”

What’s not clear from the research is whether there is a window during which we can gain weight and then lose it without creating biological backlash. Many people experience transient weight gain, putting on a few extra pounds during the holidays or gaining 10 or 20 pounds during the first years of college that they lose again. The actor Robert De Niro lost weight after bulking up for his performance in “Raging Bull.” The filmmaker Morgan Spurlock also lost the weight he gained during the making of “Super Size Me.” Leibel says that whether these temporary pounds became permanent probably depends on a person’s genetic risk for obesity and, perhaps, the length of time a person carried the extra weight before trying to lose it. But researchers don’t know how long it takes for the body to reset itself permanently to a higher weight. The good news is that it doesn’t seem to happen overnight.

“For a mouse, I know the time period is somewhere around eight months,” Leibel says. “Before that time, a fat mouse can come back to being a skinny mouse again without too much adjustment. For a human we don’t know, but I’m pretty sure it’s not measured in months, but in years.”

Nobody wants to be fat. In most modern cultures, even if you are healthy ― in my case, my cholesterol and blood pressure are low and I have an extraordinarily healthy heart ― to be fat is to be perceived as weak-willed and lazy. It’s also just embarrassing. Once, at a party, I met a well-respected writer who knew my work as a health writer. “You’re not at all what I expected,” she said, eyes widening. The man I was dating, perhaps trying to help, finished the thought. “You thought she’d be thinner, right?” he said. I wanted to disappear, but the woman was gracious. “No,” she said, casting a glare at the man and reaching to warmly shake my hand. “I thought you’d be older.”

If anything, the emerging science of weight loss teaches us that perhaps we should rethink our biases about people who are overweight. It is true that people who are overweight, including myself, get that way because they eat too many calories relative to what their bodies need. But a number of biological and genetic factors can play a role in determining exactly how much food is too much for any given individual. Clearly, weight loss is an intense struggle, one in which we are not fighting simply hunger or cravings for sweets, but our own bodies.

While the public discussion about weight loss tends to come down to which diet works best (Atkins? Jenny Craig? Plant-based? Mediterranean?), those who have tried and failed at all of these diets know there is no simple answer. Fat, sugar and carbohydrates in processed foods may very well be culprits in the nation’s obesity problem. But there is tremendous variation in an individual’s response.

The view of obesity as primarily a biological, rather than psychological, disease could also lead to changes in the way we approach its treatment. Scientists at Columbia have conducted several small studies looking at whether injecting people with leptin, the hormone made by body fat, can override the body’s resistance to weight loss and help maintain a lower weight. In a few small studies, leptin injections appear to trick the body into thinking it’s still fat. After leptin replacement, study subjects burned more calories during activity. And in brain-scan studies, leptin injections appeared to change how the brain responded to food, making it seem less enticing. But such treatments are still years away from commercial development. For now, those of us who want to lose weight and keep it off are on our own.

One question many researchers think about is whether losing weight more slowly would make it more sustainable than the fast weight loss often used in scientific studies. Leibel says the pace of weight loss is unlikely to make a difference, because the body’s warning system is based solely on how much fat a person loses, not how quickly he or she loses it. Even so, Proietto is now conducting a study using a slower weight-loss method and following dieters for three years instead of one.

Given how hard it is to lose weight, it’s clear, from a public-health standpoint, that resources would best be focused on preventing weight gain. The research underscores the urgency of national efforts to get children to exercise and eat healthful foods.

But with a third of the U.S. adult population classified as obese, nobody is saying people who already are very overweight should give up on weight loss. Instead, the solution may be to preach a more realistic goal. Studies suggest that even a 5 percent weight loss can lower a person’s risk for diabetes, heart disease and other health problems associated with obesity. There is also speculation that the body is more willing to accept small amounts of weight loss.

But an obese person who loses just 5 percent of her body weight will still very likely be obese. For a 250-pound woman, a 5 percent weight loss of about 12 pounds probably won’t even change her clothing size. Losing a few pounds may be good for the body, but it does very little for the spirit and is unlikely to change how fat people feel about themselves or how others perceive them.

So where does that leave a person who wants to lose a sizable amount of weight? Weight-loss scientists say they believe that once more people understand the genetic and biological challenges of keeping weight off, doctors and patients will approach weight loss more realistically and more compassionately. At the very least, the science may compel people who are already overweight to work harder to make sure they don’t put on additional pounds. Some people, upon learning how hard permanent weight loss can be, may give up entirely and return to overeating. Others may decide to accept themselves at their current weight and try to boost their fitness and overall health rather than changing the number on the scale.

For me, understanding the science of weight loss has helped make sense of my own struggles to lose weight, as well as my mother’s endless cycle of dieting, weight gain and despair. I wish she were still here so I could persuade her to finally forgive herself for her dieting failures. While I do, ultimately, blame myself for allowing my weight to get out of control, it has been somewhat liberating to learn that there are factors other than my character at work when it comes to gaining and losing weight. And even though all the evidence suggests that it’s going to be very, very difficult for me to reduce my weight permanently, I’m surprisingly optimistic. I may not be ready to fight this battle this month or even this year. But at least I know what I’m up against.


Tara Parker-Pope is the editor of the Well blog at The Times.


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