Dancing horses! 114th Argentine Open – our favorite pics

On Sunday 25 November we attended two polo games, the HSBC Cup and the Chandon Cup, at the Palermo polo grounds. We were so lucky to get back to Buenos Aires just in the nick of time to see the culmination of the Argentine season by the 114° Campeonato Argentino Abierto Movistar. We have never before paid $100 per seat for a sporting event — but this one was worth at least that. And not least for the opportunity to see a cross section of fashionable Portenos at play. Our favorite pics gallery is here. For our more complete photo coverage — see HSBC Cup, and Chandon Cup.

Each player fielded up to twenty-two remarkable horses [yes, that is one rider for 22 mounts — horses which are swapped in a couple of seconds of fluid movement from one saddle to the next]. The majority of these horses were identified as the Polo Argentino Breed, dryly described by the The Argentine Association of Polo Pony Breeders‘ as follows:

“This is how at the present time we have achieved a polo pony biotype that is highly efficient as regards its skills.

“The origins of this breed are to be found in the criollo (native) horses that already existed in the area and were used to play the game and which were selected for breeding. Simultaneously–and brought in specially by Anglo-Argentine players–the introduction of thoroughbred racehorses (S.P.C.) began, which accelerated crossbreeding and began slowly to absorb the original criollo.

“In time the Quarter Mile and Arab breeds were incorporated, though in a lesser degree, to make the most of certain special characteristics of each breed. This great genetic variability, added to a rigorous selection generated by the game itself and to the naturally favorable conditions of the area, are what make Polo Argentino unique in the world.”

Temples of Damanhur

Nestling in the foothills of the Alps in northern Italy, 30 miles from the ancient city of Turin, lies the valley of Valchiusella. Peppered with medieval villages, the hillside scenery is certainly picturesque… Here, 100ft down and hidden from public view, lies an astonishing secret – one that has drawn comparisons with the fabled city of Atlantis and has been dubbed ‘the Eighth Wonder of the World’ by the Italian government. For weaving their way underneath the hillside are nine ornate temples, on five levels, whose scale and opulence take the breath away.

This undertaking is a bit of a jaw dropper — I’ve nothing to add, so have a look at the photos — be prepared for some 300,000 cubic feet of surprises. For reference, Big Ben is some 15,000 cubic feet.

Aussies and Yanks

How do our fellow Aussie mates regard those Yanks?

President George W. Bush’s trip to Australia this week has met with the usual grumblings about the Iraq war and global warming. But the media scrum obscures the largely positive relations between the two countries and the convergence of their foreign policy goals.

A study released last week from the left-leaning Lowy Institute for International Policy in Sydney shows that 60% of Australians have a favorable opinion of the U.S., while 76% think well of Americans. The Bush Administration comes in for a kicking, however: 69% of those polled say the President is the reason they have an “unfavorable” view of America.

Yet dig deeper and it’s clear that Australians and Americans share similar worries. Ninety-one percent think combating terrorism is “very important” or “fairly important,” and 83% are “very worried” or “fairly worried” about “unfriendly countries developing nuclear weapons.” There’s no illusion about Iran: 62% of respondents think Tehran’s enriched uranium program is aimed at developing nuclear weapons.

Australians aren’t shy to act, either. At a time when the Australian military is engaged in more conflicts than ever before, 70% of those polled still say their country should “promote democracy in other countries” and 91% support efforts to stabilize countries in the immediate vicinity.

Yet despite all this, Australia’s support of the Iraq war is fading — 57% of respondents said Australia shouldn’t be involved, up from 51% in 2005. Australia will hold national elections this year, and opposition leader Kevin Rudd, who’s ahead in the polls, supports a pullout. It’s a good bet that Mr. Bush’s trip will provide some clues about the future direction of this friendly, if complex, relationship.

Brookstone Scientists 10 Years Away From Towel Alarm Clock

MERRIMACK, NH—Just two years after unveiling the talking remote-controlled meat thermometer and the telescope with an mp4 player, scientists at Brookstone, Inc., reported Tuesday that the towel alarm clock, which even the most optimistic upscale-gadgetry experts believed could not be available until at least the 22nd century, is a mere decade away from becoming a reality.

Sierra Redux

Victor Davis Hanson:

Last week I was hiking again in the Kaiser National Wilderness in an ongoing effort to visit most of the peaks and trails of the area, this time taking a ferry across Florence Lake and walking along the banks of the upper fork of the San Joaquin River for about seven or so miles, past the John Muir Ranch.

Once again I noticed the complete absence of vacationers in lakes and areas that were once commonly visited (I spent a week with my parents camping out at Florence in 1961 when there were more visitors than now). The roads are worse than they were 45 years ago, the camping facilities no better, and the government attitude far less welcoming. The result is an insidious public withdrawal from our wilderness heritage, and a sort of deliberate rusting of our facilities to discourage use.

But one is struck how vast the wild is and how beneficial it might be to contemporary youth to drop the video console and, for at least a weekend, hike, fish, and camp in the outdoors—if for no other reason than physical fitness and to develop a reverence for America’s forests and outdoors.

The few types I met in the High Sierra this summer were mostly the elite from the California coast, many of them Sierra Club members and other self-appointed and well-intended custodians of the wild. But from talking with many of them, I gathered their idea of a national treasure was a rather remote untouched preserve, visited by educated and affluent magnificos such as themselves, who visited no more than once or twice a year, but championed its sanctuary status daily from a distance. Anwar is the ultimate expression of that attitude, in which it is far better apparently that a Russia despoil the Siberian wilderness to put its petrol on the world market than for us to reduce our need by, if only in part symbolically, developing our own oil carefully and sensibly.

There hikers had not much interest in making trails more accessible to the millions who live nearer the mountains, who do not have the capital or education or expertise to navigate easily our present national parks and wilderness. Nor did they care much about the store owners, pack companies, and guides who make a living making the wilderness accessible.

In this regard, I was fascinated by a four-wheel drive “road” of sorts from the backside of Florence to the Muir Ranch, about five miles of absolutely inaccessible granite, woods, and streams. And yet almost daily a small used military four-wheel drive transport truck (with several crawler gears and locked wheels) brings out trash from a few campers, packers, and guests, and then trucks back in supplies, at no more than one or two miles an hour and on unbelievable inclines.

I finally paused on the trail, resolved to meet the sort of person who could drive such a contraption, and was rewarded by seeing the driver. We talked for a bit, and he seemed the sort of ideal custodian of the forests, who was brave enough to tackle the road, wanted others to enjoy the environs, but was absolutely committed to its preservation.

Likewise, if one visits the coast of Alaska, as I did this week, the overwhelming sense is one of vast size, solitude and natural forces that dwarf man—not environmental desecration. The point of all this is that we have a created a sort of natural religion for those who treat our wildernesses as churches rather than classrooms that can impart a much needed wisdom to an increasingly clueless generation.

The final irony? The best way for the Sierra Club to avoid becoming something like an esoteric cloister is to promote greater use of our parks: with public contact, comes reverence; while civic disdain is the companion of ignorance of and inexperience with nature.

A man and his dog…

This story was sent to us by our dear friend Eva in Nelson, NZ:

A man and his dog were walking along a road. The man was enjoying the scenery, when it suddenly occurred to him that he was dead.

He remembered dying, and that the dog walking beside him had been dead for years. He wondered where the road was leading them.

After a while, they came to a high, white stone wall along one side of the road. It looked like fine marble. At the top of a long hill, it was broken by a tall arch that glowed in the sunlight.

When he was standing before it he saw a magnificent gate in the arch that looked like mother-of-pearl, and the street that led to the gate looked like pure gold. He and the dog walked toward the gate, and as he got closer, he saw a man at a desk to one side

When he was close enough, he called out, “Excuse me, where are we?”

“This is Heaven, sir,” the man answered.

“Wow! Would you happen to have some water?” the man asked.

“Of course, sir. Come right in, and I’ll have some ice water brought right up.”

The man gestured, and the gate began to open.

“Can my friend,” gesturing toward his dog, “come in, too?” the traveler asked.

“I’m sorry, sir, but we don’t accept pets.”

The man thought a moment and then turned back toward the road and continued the way he had been going with his dog.

After another long walk, and at the top of another long hill, he came to a dirt road leading through a farm gate that looked as if it had never been closed. There was no fence.

As he approached the gate, he saw a man inside, leaning against a tree and reading a book.

“Excuse me!” he called to the man. “Do you have any water?”

“Yeah, sure, there’s a pump over there, come on in.”

“How about my friend here?” the traveler gestured to the dog.

“There should be a bowl by the pump.”

They went through the gate, and sure enough, there was an old-fashioned hand pump with a bowl beside it.

The traveler filled the water bowl and took a long drink himself, then he gave some to the dog.

When they were full, he and the dog walked back toward the man who was standing by the tree.

“What do you call this place?” the traveler asked.

“This is Heaven,” he answered.

“Well, that’s confusing,” the traveler said. “The man down the road said that was Heaven, too.”

“Oh, you mean the place with the gold street and pearly gates? Nope. That’s hell.”

“Doesn’t it make you mad for them to use your name like that?”

“No, we’re just happy that they screen out the folks who would leave their best friends behind.”

Multiculturalism destroys trust

Richard Fernandez notes:

Harvard Political Science Professor Robert Putnam has an interesting study on the effects of ethnic diversity on trust, according an article at the Financial Times. In short, multiethnicity undermines trust within communities.

…But if Putnam is correct, then one of the central tenets of multiculturalism — that it brings people together if they simply “respect” each others differences — immediately requires qualification. In fact, it becomes entirely conceivable that the multiculti program is actually the driver behind many of the tensions which are now rising in places like France, the Netherlands and the UK.

James C. Bennett has written several compelling articles and books [The Anglosphere Challenge] on the contrasts between high-trust and low-trust societies [trust me, you want to live in the former]. Bennett makes a strong case that the Anglosphere uniquely has all of the positive attributes that foster a high-trust society. From the book blurb:

Despite repeated predictions of the decline of America and the other English speaking nations (the anglosphere) as the world’s pathfinding cultures, James C. Bennett believes that their collective lead will only widen in the coming decades under the impact of the next wave of technological revolution.

Coining the term network commonwealth to describe the loose political entities now emerging in the world based on a common language and heritage (of which anglosphere is the first), Bennett believes that traits common to these entities–a particularly strong and independent civil society; openness and receptivity to the world, its people, and its ideas; and a dynamic economy–have uniquely positioned them to prosper in our time of dramatic technological and scientific change, provided they remain true to the demands of these traits.

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