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How Italy came to be Europe’s coffee capital

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Given how protective Italians can be over their coffee culture, you might be forgiven for thinking they invented the drink.

But that title actually goes to Ethiopia, where much of the world’s coffee is still grown today.

According to the coffee blog Home Grounds, the story goes that in 700 AD, an Abyssinian goatherder named Kaldi found his goats prancing around and acting strangely.

Seeing red berries on some nearby bushes, Kaldi surmised that they might be behind his charges’ odd behaviour.

At this point different versions of the story emerge: one says Kaldi gave the berries to a monk, who was happy to find something to help him stay awake to pray all night; another says the monk disapproved and threw the beans on the fire, where they released the delicious aroma of roasted beans.

Unripened coffee beans growing on branches.
Unripened coffee beans growing on branches. Photo by Rodrigo Flores on Unsplash

Either way, humans started drinking coffee, and they haven’t stopped since.

From Ethiopia, coffee spread across the ocean to Yemen and proliferated throughout the Arabian peninsula. Here it gave rise coffeehouses or qahveh khaneh, which became hubs of social and cultural activity.

Coffee didn’t make its way to Italy until 16th century, when Venetian sailors brought it back from the Ottoman empire.

READ ALSO: Where, when and how to drink coffee like an Italian

At first this black, bitter liquid was feared to be from the devil, and local priests called on Pope Clement VIII to denounce it.

But, the legend goes, the pope decided to give the drink a try before delivering his judgement; and after a few sips, he proclaimed, “This Satan’s drink is so delicious that it would be a pity to let the infidels have exclusive use of it.” He gave the drink his blessing – but not before baptising the beans, just to be safe.

Coffeehouses subsequently started popping up in Venice in around the late 17th century, and by the mid-1700s there were over 200 of them, frequented by great artists, writers and poets of the time.

But it wasn’t until the late 19th century that a series of Italian inventors started coming up with the innovations that led to Italy gaining its current reputation as Europe’s custodian of coffee.

As coffee became more and more popular, people started looking for ways to produce it at speed rather than having to leave each cup to brew for several minutes, and the idea of forcing steam through coffee grounds at pressure in order to make coffee quickly began to take hold.

An old-fashioned Italian espresso machine.
An old-fashioned Italian espresso machine. Photo by Gabriella Clare Marino on Unsplash

The first effort at something approaching an espresso (literally, ‘pressed out’) machine was presented by Angelo Moriondo at the Turin General Exposition in 1884, where it won a bronze medal – but the device was somewhat impractical in its design, and was never produced commercially.

READ ALSO: Why is Italy called Italy?

A while later, in 1901, Milanese inventor Luigi Bezzerra developed and patented a smaller and more efficient version of the machine, making it commercially viable, though it still had some faults.

By 1906, Bezzerra and fellow inventor Desiderio Pavoni had more or less perfected their version of the instrument, and the first steam-based espresso machine went on the market.

This device was ultimately replaced by Achille Gaggia’s 1938 invention, which dispensed with the steam (which could give the coffee a burnt flavour) and made espresso by forcing hot water through the coffee grounds at very high pressure, producing a highly concentrated drink very similar to what we think of as espresso today.

In between, one Alfonso Bialetti came out with his stovetop Moka caffettiera in 1933, which allowed ordinary Italians to make something not unlike espresso coffee in the comfort of their own homes.

A bialetti moka caffetiera.
A Bialetti moka caffetiera. Photo by Sten Ritterfeld on Unsplash

With these inventions, Italy developed a reputation for being Europe’s, if not the world’s, coffee capital – a recognition it guards fiercely today.

The question of who ‘owns’ Italy’s coffee culture was raised earlier this year, when it transpired that the Consortium for the Protection of Traditional Italian Espresso Coffee in Treviso and the Region of Campania had separately sought UNESCO recognition for the espresso coffee tradition; the consortium representing all of Italy and Campania representing Naples, which is particularly proud of its coffee culture.

READ ALSO: Guardia di Finanza to Carabinieri – who does what in the Italian police force?

One academic who worked on Campania’s bid decried the Treviso consortium’s application as “an act of war by the north against the south”, the Wall Street Journal reported at the time, while the consortium’s founder Giorgio Caballini described Naples’ attempt to assert ownership over Italian espresso as “unacceptable”.

In the end, neither won: Italy’s UNESCO committee told the two groups it was disallowing both their candidacies, and to apply again as a united front next year.

Hopefully, they can resolve their differences – perhaps over an espresso or two.



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Academy Awards apologizes to Sacheen Littlefeather for 1973 Oscars abuse | Culture

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The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (Ampas), the body that oversees the Oscars, has apologized to Sacheen Littlefeather for the abuse she suffered at the 1973 Academy Awards. The Native American actress appeared at the ceremony on the request of actor Marlon Brando, who was awarded Best Actor for his role in The Godfather. When Brando’s name was announced, Littlefeather, who was 26 years old at the time, took to the stage to say that owing to the “poor treatment of Native Americans in the film industry,” as well as the recent events at Wounded Knee, a conflict which led to the death of two Native Americans, Brando would not accept the award.

Her speech was met with boos (and some applause) from the audience, and the actress had to be escorted by security guards. According to Littlefeather, that night some people used the “Tomahawk chop” – seen as a demeaning gesture to Native Americans – as she was walking by. Her Indian heritage was questioned, and she was accused of being in a relationship with Brando. Decades later, in 2020, Littlefeather said that actor John Wayne nearly assaulted her.

Nearly 50 years after the ceremony, the Academy has issued a formal apology for what happened. “The abuse you endured because of this statement was unwarranted and unjustified. The emotional burden you have lived through and the cost to your own career in our industry are irreparable. For too long the courage you showed has been unacknowledged. For this, we offer both our deepest apologies and our sincere admiration,” reads the letter signed by its former president, David Rubin.

Sacheen Littlefeather during an event in 2010.
Sacheen Littlefeather during an event in 2010.VALERIE MACON (AFP)

Littlefeather, who is now 75, has responded with humor to the Academy’s apology. “We Indians are very patient people – it’s only been 50 years!” she said in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. “I never thought I’d live to see the day I would be hearing this.”

The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures will also host a special event on September 17, in which Littlefeather will discuss her appearance at the 1973 Oscars and the representation of Native Americans on screen.

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Music: Madonna has been scandalizing people for 40 years, and nobody’s going to stop her | Culture

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Madonna’s Instagram account has a reputation as a playground for digital voyeurs. It doesn’t disappoint, featuring Madonna crying; Madonna drunk; Madonna twerking with Maluma; Madonna filming her family performing a dance while cooking; Madonna kissing Britney Spears at Spears’s wedding; Madonna flashing a boob; Madonna posing spread-eagle with the caption, “I have something for you.”

The singer has relatively few followers (18.4 million) compared to stars from later generations like Beyoncé (273 million), but she offers better stimuli: the chance to see a pop star who has done everything – going above and beyond both morally and artistically – struggle not to become just another sympathetic character. Madonna has been part of the music world for 40 years and still no other pop star has proven to be more subversive and provocative than she is. Now, she’s releasing a remix album summarizing her career, Finally Enough Love: 50 Number Ones (on sale August 19), turning 64 (August 16) and moving up the production of a film that tells her life story, the real one.

Madonna on the set of director Uli Edel’s Body of Evidence in Washington, D.C., in the early 1990s.
Madonna on the set of director Uli Edel’s Body of Evidence in Washington, D.C., in the early 1990s.

The singer’s frenzied use of her Instagram perfectly symbolizes her career, which has been scrutinized around the world since she started in the music industry in 1982, at the age of 25. Surely, Madonna has suffered every type of harassment that a pop star can endure: sexual harassment, body criticism, machismo, classism; accusations of cultural appropriation and of being anti-religious, sacrilegious, unpatriotic, youth-obsessed; and claims that she’s a heretic, an imposter for using playback in concerts, the financier of an alleged sect (Kabbalah)… Yes, she’s always gone too far in everything; as a woman from the suburbs of Detroit, that has not been tolerated. In the 1980s, she burned crucifixes in her music video for Like a Prayer; in the 1990s, she published a book, Sex, that had the most explicit images of homosexuality and fetishism that a star had ever shown; in the 2000s, she passionately kissed Britney Spears at an awards gala with millions of people watching on television; and just recently on June 23, at a New York Pride celebration, she made out with her new friend, Tokisha, the 26-year-old Dominican woman we know from the songs she performs with Rosalía like “Linda” and “La Combi de Versace.”

Madonna with designer Jean Paul Gaultier after the release of the album 'Erotica' at a parade in Paris in 1992.
Madonna with designer Jean Paul Gaultier after the release of the album ‘Erotica’ at a parade in Paris in 1992.Jim Smeal (Getty)

For a person who is so continually obsessed with attention, it must be frustrating for Madonna that she doesn’t resonate with today’s young people. Hence, her display with Tokisha and her desire to work with Kendrick Lamar, hip hop’s biggest talent today, as she confessed a week ago on Jimmy Fallon’s show. Madonna has one consolation: many teenagers today will also ignore the Beatles’ significance entirely, although Paul McCartney probably doesn’t care much about that anymore.

For 40 years, Madonna has been a thoughtful provocateur. Between provocations, she has recorded good albums with a limited voice. She herself has confessed that the biggest challenge of her career was preparing for the musical film Evita (1996); she had to work hard with the best singing coaches to bring her vocal abilities up to snuff. In four decades, she has released 14 albums, and at least five of them are essential listening. The first two (Madonna, 1983, and Like A Virgin, 1984) are full of gems that define 1980s dance pop. Songs like Holiday, Everybody, Lucky Star, Material Girl, Like a Virgin and Dress You Up are still exciting today, and they hold up equally well at the gym and in the club. Of course, Like a Prayer (1989), surely Madonna’s best work, transcends the context of the 1980s to retain its appeal in

subsequent decades. In terms of lyrics, Ray of Light (1998) was one of her career’s best. Her great avant-garde electronica work with producer William Orbit is both relaxed and festive. Finally, her reinvention with Confessions on a Dance Floor (2005) – done in collaboration with Stuart Price – gave 1970s/early 1980s disco music a facelift by updating it and making it more sophisticated. Through the present day, Madonna has been enormously influential; her imprint on Dua Lipa is the clearest example. She always knew that fame comes through a musical pastiche: taking a bit from here and a bit from there without being too obvious and then embellishing it with her own contributions.

The singer in her iconic gold corset with spiky breasts on the 1990 'Blonde Ambition' tour.
The singer in her iconic gold corset with spiky breasts on the 1990 ‘Blonde Ambition’ tour.Cordon Press

Madonna has sold 250 million records and is the best-selling female artist in history, not bad for a girl who was born in a Detroit suburb, and whose world was shattered when she lost her mother at 6 years old. At the age of 20, she left for New York to do the opposite of what her strict father told her: she

became a model and was soon performing nude at punk joints like CBGB’s. When she began to break through in music, she found herself in the spotlight and surrounded by male achievers, including Prince, Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen, Phil Collins, George Michael and U2. Of the 25 best-selling albums in the 1980s, when she began her career, only two women’s work made the cut : Madonna (with Like a Virgin and True Blue) and Whitney Houston.

In this male-dominated context, Madonna used her own sexualization to craft her image and exert control. She was not a sexual amusement for the male audience; she was a powerful and defiant woman. Madonna grew up listening to Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross and other Motown artists, learned to play the drums with Elvis Costello’s New Wave records, saw David Bowie as the first concert she attended, and had her first drink at the age of 30, following her divorce from actor Sean Penn. Restless and curious, she always sought the company of daring artists like Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat.

With Maluma at a concert in Medellín, Colombia, on April 30, 2022.
With Maluma at a concert in Medellín, Colombia, on April 30, 2022.Fredy Builes (Getty Images)

Soon, Madonna realized that she was living in a hostile environment that was not ready to tolerate an emancipated woman’s success. In 1985, Playboy and Penthouse magazines published nude photographs that had been taken of her in 1979, when the singer was not yet famous and made her living posing naked for photographers. The publications took advantage of the singer’s fame in the mid-1980s and sold the old images. Madonna took the incident as a warning. “That was the first time I was aware of saying ‘Fuck you’ with my attitude. You’re trying to put me down because of this? I’m not going to let public opinion dictate my own feelings about myself. I’m not going to apologize for anything I’ve done,” she told Rolling Stone magazine. In 2016, when Billboard magazine named her Woman of the Year, Madonna delivered a legendary speech against sexism, machismo, and misogyny: “If you’re a girl, you have to play the game. You’re allowed to be pretty and cute and sexy. But don’t act too smart. Don’t have an opinion that’s out of line with the status quo. You are allowed to be objectified by men and dress like a slut, but don’t own your sluttiness.” She defiantly added that those who diminished her had made her tougher: “To the doubters

and naysayers and everyone who gave me hell and said I could not, that I would not or I must not — your resistance made me stronger, made me push harder, made me the fighter that I am today. It made me the woman that I am today. So thank you.”

More than a pop star, Madonna is a concept. She stands for rebelliousness, indiscipline and fighting against the odds. That’s why she is an LGTBI muse and a point of reference for those who came after her: Britney Spears, Katy Perry, Christina Aguilera, Rihanna, Miley Cyrus, Taylor Swift, Pink… and the current pop goddess, Beyoncé, who recently released a version of her single “Break My Soul” fused with Madonna’s 1990 hit “Vogue.” Beyonce thanked Madonna for her example in a note that the latter shared on social media: “I’m so grateful for you. You have opened so many doors for so many women. You are a masterpiece genius.”

Emerging Spanish-language urban musicians also express their appreciation for Madonna. As the Argentine Ms Nina, who lives in Spain, put it: “She’s an inspirational empowered woman. Now, our lyrics scandalize people, but she was much more radical in the 1980s. People criticize her now because she has surgery, because she is old…. Let’s see how her critics are doing when they’re 60 years old. They’re never happy. But they’re not going to intimidate her. I love her.”

Madonna with Michael Jackson at the 1991 Oscars.
Madonna with Michael Jackson at the 1991 Oscars.Cordon Press

Indeed, no matter how many haters visit her Instagram, Madonna is not going to give up. In 2019, she released an album that passed muster with harsh critics. Madame X did not thrill people but she did convince them. “Oh, you’re not allowed to make youthful, fun, sexy music if you’re a certain age? That’s a load of bollocks, to speak your language,” she said in a 2019 interview with The Guardian about her recently released album. True to her commitment to the queer community, a few days ago she released Material Gworrllllllllllllll!, a collaboration with gay rapper Saucy Santana in which they remix her 1980s hit Material Girl.

Three weeks ago, the singer gave an interview to Variety, announcing that she will direct a movie about her life (Julia Garner will play her). She explained it this way: “It was also a preemptive strike because a lot of people were trying to make movies about me. Mostly misogynistic men. So I put my foot in the door and said, ‘No one’s going to tell my story, but me.’” As always, that’s just Madonna being Madonna.

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Perijasaurus lapaz: The incredible story of how a new dinosaur species was discovered in Colombia | Culture

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Paleontologists Mónica Carvalho and Jeff Wilson with the vertebra of the new dinosaur 'Perijasaurus lapaz' at the University of Michigan. (Courtesy)
Paleontologists Mónica Carvalho and Jeff Wilson with the vertebra of the new dinosaur ‘Perijasaurus lapaz’ at the University of Michigan. (Courtesy)Cortesía

About 175 million years ago, a herbivorous dinosaur with four thick legs, a tiny head and a very long neck and tail roamed the Serranía del Perijá mountain range in northern Colombia. This recently discovered species is the second dinosaur known to be of Colombian origin, and provides another clue to the evolutionary history of these prehistoric giants in South America.

Digital reconstruction of the dinosaur.
Digital reconstruction of the dinosaur.

“Can we say that we have a new Colombian dinosaur?” we ask. “Yes, definitely. This species does not seem to be related to dinosaurs that inhabited the tropics during the Early Jurassic Epoch,” replies Aldo Rincón, a professor at the Universidad del Norte in Barranquilla (northern Colombia) and lead author of the recent study published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. “The main differences between this dinosaur and others can be seen in the preserved morphology of the vertebra.” The team that studied the dinosaur and authored the article with Rincón includes paleontologist Jeffrey Wilson (University of Michigan, USA); museum curator Martín Ezcurra (Argentine Museum of Natural Sciences); geologist Harold Jiménez (Universidad EAFIT, Medellín, Colombia); and geologist Daniel Raad (Universidad del Norte, Baranquilla, Colombia).

The new dinosaur species is called Perijasaurus lapaz. “Perijá for the mountain range where the fossil was found and lapaz [the peace] to honor the 2016 peace agreement between the Colombian government and the FARC guerrillas,” said Raad. The peace agreement allowed scientists to access the remote area long controlled by the guerrillas.

Rincón recalls how the research team stayed at a special training and reintegration zone for ex-guerrillas who now work in ecotourism. “I liked having the opportunity to visit the Serranía del Perijá after the peace accords. Unfortunately, scientists couldn’t go there for many years,” said Rincón.

Professor Aldo Rincón conducting fieldwork in the Serranía del Perijá mountain range.
Professor Aldo Rincón conducting fieldwork in the Serranía del Perijá mountain range.CORTESÍA

Giant fossils instead of oil

The story of the discovery of Perijasaurus lapaz begins on March 27, 1943. A geologist with the Tropical Oil Company found a heavy and strange-looking bone that did not seem to belong to any native fauna. The fossil was unearthed near a road between the Cesar and Ranchería river basins in the Serranía de Perijá mountain range. Instead of oil, the geologist had found a spinal vertebra from a dinosaur, but didn’t know it. He took the sediment-encrusted fossil to the United States and handed it over to the University of California, Berkeley. Twelve years later, a preliminary research study was published with the title “A sauropod dinosaur from Colombia” (Journal of Paleontology, 1955). The study did not identify the species, only that the fossil belonged to a sauropod – a long-necked herbivore – and gave no indication of the fossil’s scientific significance. The fossil was then forgotten for decades.

In 2018, 75 years after the fossil was discovered, paleontologist Jeffrey Wilson obtained a Fulbright grant to study the fossil with Aldo Rincón and the other scientists. They cleaned the bone, removed the decades-old plaster and glue, and discovered parts of the vertebra that didn’t seem to belong to a known species. “We were able to better visualize the delicate bony laminae that connected the spine, the intervertebral joints and the rib joints,” said Wilson in a press release issued by the Universidad del Norte.

The scientists then made 3D prints of the fossil and created the three-dimensional model that can be viewed on the University of Michigan’s Online Fossil Repository. But when the scientists discovered that the fossil had unique morphological features not seen in other species, they decided to try to pinpoint the location where the geologist had found the bone.

The old map

Back in 1943, the Tropical Oil Company geologists created a hand-drawn map showing the location and depth at which they found the fossil. “We created an overlay of a current map with the old map to identify the exact place where the vertebra was found,” said Daniel Raad. “Then we erected a stratigraphic column at the site to identify the [geological] layer where the vertebra came from.” The sediment that remained on the fossil helped them identify the right geological layer. “At the site, we found fragments of fossilized leaves and tree trunks, which indicates an environment with high preservation potential – in other words, where many fossils are likely to be found.”

According to Raad, the fossilized vegetation found near the vertebra revealed that Perijasaurus lapaz “lived in a riparian [adjacent to a body of water] wooded area with low slopes.” Raad and Rincón both highlighted the scientific importance of the finding – it’s not every day that a new dinosaur species is discovered, especially in Colombia. The region’s high heat and constant rain are difficult conditions for fossil preservation. In fact, when the large vertebra was discovered in 1943, it was the northernmost evidence of a sauropod in the Americas, the only one outside Patagonia, Argentina. Now, almost 80 years later, it still is.

“The importance of discovering a new genus and species in the tropics,” said Rincón, “is that it allows us to better understand the origins of sauropods and their ancestors, traces of which have been found in Cretaceous period rocks in Argentina.” Raad concurs, “The scientific relevance [of this discovery] is that that it helps us understand how these large dinosaurs evolved in the little explored tropics.”

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