Poetry Slam Madrid

On the first Wednesday of every month, Poetry Slam Madrid invades Bar Intruso for a few hours and a poetry slam event takes place. This reporter met with one of the organizers to find out a little bit more about the emerging art form.

In a bar in the La Latina area of Madrid, Jonathan Teuma sits across me from with his eyes wide and full of ideas and his goatee tufting out like two fingers to the powers that be. He very much puts me in mind of Gustave Courbet’s “Desperate Man,” and Jonathan, much like the painter himself, lives his life under no regime save for the regime of liberty, and he comes from a socialist agitator stock. When I first met this affable Gibraltarian, he had tucked under his arm book called “My Grandmother was an Anarchist” and we had a discussion about the pointlessness of nationalism, with me for and him against. This man, literally and figuratively, from between two worlds has travelled extensively this big world we all share, from Angola to England, and now to Madrid. Jonathan Teuma, as one of the coordinators of the Poetry Slam movement in Madrid, shows himself as a passionate promoter of the group.

The tenor of the poetry slam is generally a leftie one, with artists shouting, acting, musing, and condemning through the performance art of poetry slam. Every month, a guest poet opens proceedings by doing a reading and this is followed by local poets vying to win that night’s competition, as voted for by the crowd. It’s like Eminem’s 8 Mile but less depressing, more political, and equally as socially conscious.

“My poetry is a look at what is around me, it is mental digestion of what is around me, and a comment on that.”

Any prop used by a poet automatically disqualifies the poet and so the poet must solely rely on their voice, their body, and their passion. In my time observing them, the economic recession, forced evictions, abortion, religion, and a whole host of hot-button issues have been adapted into the poetry slam format. It is quite an experience to witness a slam as many of the poems are poor enough when read but when spoken are animated through the vocalizations of the modern equivalent of ancient poets passing down myths.

Jonathan is the embodiment of all aspects of Poetry Slam. His actions are theatrical and his voice seems catapulted from center stage. His family, on both sides and from both sides of the Civil War divide, escaped the increasingly intense conflict for the refuge of Gibraltar. His Great-Grandfather evaded Franco’s troops and was smuggled over by a reluctant fisherman and, for the second leg of the journey, by an off-duty policeman. His Great-Grandmother was smuggled children over into Gibraltar on one occasion, and other members of his family distributed anti-Franco propaganda in the south of Spain or were strike leaders. This lineage has had an influence on his poetry, with Jonathan stating that, “I have been put squarely on the left by my family,” and that, “My poetry is a look at what is around me, it is mental digestion of what is around me, and a comment on that. It is impregnated with a Leftist ideology.”

The Poetry Slam movement is quite international and it is arguably at its strongest in Germany. The movements around Spain are interlinked and they share poets for workshops up and down the country while poetry slammers from around the globe are invited to perform or sometimes eve ask on their own volition to participate. Starting this month, there will be a monthly English poetry slam that hopes to widen the net of the slam over the heads of new and aspiring performers.

It is a growing movement and if you want to witness it or participate, then call in to Bar Intruso, C/ Augosto Figueroa, 3. Its biggest value for me, after absorbing as much as I can, is that in a country such as Spain, where free speech is limited and protests harder to implement, the Poetry Slam Madrid movement is one way to verbalize and debate, the two key parts of any healthy democracy that are now essential in this democratically sick country where there are those trying to stop people using their voice.

By Enda Kenneally

When political parties reverse their policy stance, their supporters immediately switch their opinions too

At least a significant portion of their supporters, according to U of Aarhus researchers.

When two competing political parties in Denmark reversed their policy stance on an issue — suddenly they both supported reducing unemployment benefits — their voters immediately moved their opinions by around 15% into line with their party.

The same thing happened when one of these parties shifted from opposing to supporting ending Denmark’s early retirement.

The researchers were studying how public opinion is formed. Their recent paper sheds light on how much influence political parties have over their supporters, according to the researchers, who surveyed their panel of subjects in five successive waves between 2010 and 2011. They studied the same group of party supporters before, during and after a policy reversal.

“We can see that [the] welfare programs were actually quite popular … and many of the voters of the center-right party were in favor of these welfare programs,” commented one of the researchers, Rune Slothuus. “Nevertheless, we can see that they reversed their opinion from supporting these welfare programs to opposing these welfare programs.”

“I was surprised to see the parties appeared this powerful in shaping opinions,” Slothuus said. “Our findings suggest that partisan leaders can indeed lead citizens’ opinions in the real world, even in situations where the stakes are real and the economic consequences tangible.”

The researchers pondered Western democracy in light of their findings: “If citizens just blindly follow their party without thinking much about it, that should lead to some concern about the mechanisms in our democracy. Because how can partisan elites represent citizens’ views if the views of citizens are shaped by the very same elites who are supposed to represent them?”

Source: How Political Parties Shape Public Opinion in the Real World. Rune Slothuus and Martin Bisgaard. First published: 04 November 2020 https://doi.org/10.1111/ajps.12550

The brain listens for things it is trying to predict

The brain interprets sounds as they contrast with its expectations; it recognizes patterns of sounds faster when they’re in line with what it is predicting it will hear, but it only encodes sounds when they contrast with expectations, according to Technische U researchers.

The researchers showed this by monitoring the two principal nuclei of the subcortical pathway responsible for auditory processing: the inferior colliculus and the medial geniculate body, as their subjects listened to patterns of sounds which the researches modified so that sometimes they would hear an expected sound pattern, and other times something unexpected.

Source: Alejandro Tabas, Glad Mihai, Stefan Kiebel, Robert Trampel, Katharina von Kriegstein. Abstract rules drive adaptation in the subcortical sensory pathway. eLife, 2020; 9 DOI: 10.7554/eLife.64501

We have a particular way of understanding a room

When several research subjects were instructed to explore an empty room, and when they were instead seated in a chair and watched someone else explore the room, their brain waves followed a certain pattern, as recorded by a backpack hooked up to record their brain waves, eye movements, and paths. It didn’t matter if they were walking or watching someone else, according to UC researchers led by Dr Matthias Stangl.

The researchers also tested what happened when subjects searched for a hidden spot, or watched someone else do so, and found that brain waves flowed more strongly when they had a goal and hunted for something.

Source: Matthias Stangl, Uros Topalovic, Cory S. Inman, Sonja Hiller, Diane Villaroman, Zahra M. Aghajan, Leonardo Christov-Moore, Nicholas R. Hasulak, Vikram R. Rao, Casey H. Halpern, Dawn Eliashiv, Itzhak Fried, Nanthia Suthana. Boundary-anchored neural mechanisms of location-encoding for self and others. Nature, 2020; DOI: 10.1038/s41586-020-03073-y

Extroverts and introverts use different vocabularies

Extroverts use ‘positive emotion’ and ‘social process’ words more often than introverts, according to new research conducted at Nanyang Technological U.

‘Love,’ ‘happy,’ and ‘blessed’ indicate pleasant emotions, and ‘beautiful’ and ‘nice’ indicate positivity or optimism, and are among the words found to be used more often by extroverts. So too are ‘meet,’ ‘share,’ and ‘talk,’ which are about socializing. Extroverts use personal pronouns — except ‘I’ — more too, another indication of sociability.

The correlation, however, was small, and the researchers think that stronger linguistic indicators need to be found to achieve their general goal, which is improving machine learning approaches to targeting consumer marketing.

Source: Jiayu Chen, Lin Qiu, Moon-Ho Ringo Ho. A meta-analysis of linguistic markers of extraversion: Positive emotion and social process words. Journal of Research in Personality, 2020; 89: 104035 DOI: 10.1016/j.jrp.2020.104035

WhatsApp is changing today - Users must give the app permission to send their private data to Facebook or lose account

WhatsApp was bought by Facebook in 2014, but has thrived while promoting itself as a privacy-respecting messaging app that now has 1.5b monthly active users. This week, though, WhatApp sent out an update to users’ phones that they must ‘consent’ to a new policy or lose access.

Whatsapp will now share more of your data, including your IP address (your location) and phone number, your account registration information, your transaction data, and service-related data, interactions on WhatsApp, and other data collected based on your consent, with Facebook’s other companies. Facebook has been working towards more closely integrating Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger.

Users who do not agree to ‘consent’ to the new policy will see their WhatsApp account become inaccessible until they do ‘consent.’ These accounts will remain dormant for 120 days after which they will be ‘deleted.’

The biggest change to the user policy, which many people ignored and clicked ‘agree’ to, thinking it was just another unimportant app update message, now reads,

‘We collect information about your activity on our Services, like service-related, diagnostic, and performance information. This includes information about your activity (including how you use our Services, your Services settings, how you interact with others using our Services (including when you interact with a business), and the time, frequency, and duration of your activities and interactions), log files, and diagnostic, crash, website, and performance logs and reports. This also includes information about when you registered to use our Services; the features you use like our messaging, calling, Status, groups (including group name, group picture, group description), payments or business features; profile photo, “about” information; whether you are online, when you last used our Services (your “last seen”); and when you last updated your “about” information.’

Notably, Elon Musk tweeted on the news, saying that WhatsApp users should switch to Signal, one of several popular privacy-focused messaging apps similar to WhatsApp.

The data sharing policy change doesn’t affect people in Europe due to GDPR data protection regulations.