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(506) 223-1327        Published Friday, Feb. 1, 2008, in Vol. 8, No. 23            E-mail us
Jo Stuart
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Puerto Viejo residents finally get hearing on marina
By Helen Thompson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Pressure from residents has persuaded the Municipalidad de Talamanca to hold an open meeting to explain plans for a $40 million marina that some believe will damage the local environment.

Groups of expatriates and locals living in Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean Coast had to send two petition letters to the municipality asking for a dicussion of the community's fears before they received a response.

The “Marina Ecológica New World,” which developers Grupo Caribeño S.A. hope to begin constructing in the middle of this year, will be the focus of the meeting to be held at Puerto Viejo's Casa Cultura at 10 a.m. Feb. 12.

Residents sent a second letter to the municipality this month after the first letter, sent in October, was ignored. The second letter threatened to take 
the issue to the Sala IV constitutional court if a reply was not received from Mayor Rugelis Morales Rodríguez within 10 days.

A committee, partly made up by members of Asociación Talamanqueña de Ecoturismo y Conservación, is working on a list of questions that they will ask the municipality.

The proposed site of the marina is between two national parks, and some fear that the increase in ocean pollution brought by the 398 boats that could possibly dock in the five-star marina might damage the coral and marine life in these parks.

Small business owners also fear the competition that an upmarket development could bring to the town, which is in the poorest province of Costa Rica, and is largely frequented by budget travelers.

All community members are invited to the meeting, and questions can be contributed by contacting the association at for more details.

Paquera ferry operators lose battle in supreme court
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala I of the Corte Suprema de Justicia put the Ferry Peninsula out of business Thursday.

The Poder Judicial reported that the high court, which deals in civil matters, agreed to bar the  Asociación de Desarrollo Integral de Paquera from running its ferry.

The association said this would affect the income for 60 families in Paquera. It estimated it would lose 46 million colons (about $92,000) a month.

Naviera Tambor sought the injunction. The company owners and operates two ferries, Tambor I and Tambor II, between Puntarenas and Paquera.
It won a concession in March 2007 after a public offering, but the Paquera association prevailed on  the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transporte to allow it to continue with the third ferry as a temporary measure.

The hearing Thursday was on an appeal by Naviera Tambor from a negative ruling Jan. 16 by the Tribunal Contencioso Administrativo, which is designed to hear such cases.

The association promised to keep fighting.

The ferries are a vital link in carrying individuals, cars and trucks from Puntarenas across the Gulf of Nicoya to the southern part of the Nicoya Peninsula. The ferries also are a vital tourism link.

The bull and devils are at it again in Boruca community of Rey Curré
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Conquistadors and Indians will be pitted against each other again this weekend in the Juego de Los Diablitos.

Boruca Indians dress themselves in Devil masks to remember the struggles of their ancestors against the invading Spanish forces.

A large bull made out of wood and sacks symbolizes the Spanish, and, indeed, anything foreign to the Indian culture.

The bull moves from household to household, and families take turns to fight against it during the
three-day festival held in Rey Curré in the Reserva Indigena Curre/Yimba south of  Buenos Aires de Puntarenas.

Locals eat tamales and drink chicha to get themselves in the party spirit, and at the end of the three days they kill the bull by burning it, symbolizing the triumph of the Indians over the Spanish.

Although the tradition is centuries old, over time the significance has changed to encompass the fight against any outside force that could be detrimental to the material and spiritual values of the Boruca culture.  The festival starts today and ends Sunday. Spectators are welcome to attend.

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Annual pilgrimage to TV sets
is also called Super Bowl XLII

By Anne Clark
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Local establishments are gearing up for the expected expatriate swarm Sunday when Superbowl XLII kicks off with the New York Giants taking on the undefeated New England Patriots.

As of 2003, the Superbowl's date was moved to the first Sunday in February.  In Costa Rica, the Superbowl conflicts every four years with election day when the sale of alcohol is banned.  Two years and six years ago  many establishments were forced to close, hold private  parties or BYOB.  Fortunately this year the alcohol will be flowing as the only elections to distract displaced Americans are the U.S. primaries Tuesday. 

Many places are selling tickets to their closed Superbowl parties that include an open bar as well as food.  The Sportsmen's Lodge is selling tickets for $50, highlighting their seven-hour open bar and dancing by the Pilsen Girls.  Sportsmen's also has a giant projection screen for sports events.  The Time Out Tavern in Escazu is pre-selling $40 tickets, providing many appetizers and two buffets as well as, most importantly, an all-you-can-drink pass. 

The prevalence of online gambling is another expat-in-Costa Rica take on the the conventional American Superbowl viewing experience.  There's currently an 11 1/2 point spread on the game, down from 14, obviously favoring New England and Coach Bill Belicheat.  Bookies seem to be thinking that New England will win but will fail to cover the spread. 

The bets on this potentially record-setting title game for the New England Patriots are on the way to be record-setting as well.  Nevada alone is expecting a record $100 million, breaking the $94.5 million record set by the Steelers-Seahawks Superbowl in 2006. 

A lot of the Gringo-friendly sports bars and restaurants know what's up, offering free wireless to their laptop-toting customers wanting to follow their sports bets online.  Additionally, for the Superbowl,  many restaurants have betting pools, most are almost sold out. 

Steve Graham, the Time Out Tavern owner, said he subscribes to Dish, Skyy and AmNet and provides wireless Internet, drawing “lots of sportsbook guys” on game day looking to follow their stats and bets.

Aside from dancers, unlimited booze, following bets and maybe making some money, the frugal few in Costa Rica may be watching the big game in sorrow at home.  And most Ticos are saying Super ¿que?

Head of investigating unit seeks tax hike for crime fight

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The head of the judicial Investigating Organization told lawmakers Thursday that they should levy a 1 percent tax on telephone use to provide more resources for the fight against crime.

The agency director is Jorge Rojas Vargas, and he was appearing before the  Comisión Permanente Especial de Narcotráfico.

He urged passage of a series of measures the Óscar Arias administration has put forth to help in the fight against crime. These include a  law to protect witnesses, a law to fight organized crime and a budget measure to permit judges to be on call 24 hours a day. The witness law calls for testimony in confidence.

Rojas told the lawmakers that they should increase the existing 1 percent tax that supports the 911 emergency telephone service to 2 percent and use half of the money to fight crime.

Tourist guide author has
online update for public

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Author Harry S. Pariser has come out with an online update for his popular Fifth Edition of "Explore Costa Rica."

The author said that the 10-page PDF file may be downloaded at "This comprehensive 10-page guide features news and information not found elsewhere," said Pariser in a release, adding: "Readers will learn about new hotels, restaurants, and national parks and reserves. It is essential reading for travelers to Costa Rica."

Eight arrested in property fraud

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Judicial agents detained four men and four women, including two lawyer-notaries, Thursday for investigation of property fraud. The Judicial Investigating Organization said the allegation is that the individuals created the false sale of two properties owned by a foreigner in Heredia and then obtained a mortgage from a private bank based on the fake information.

Judicial agents made eight raids Thursday in San Francisco de Calles Blancos, San Ramón de Alajuela, El Alto de Guadalupe, Alajuela centro and Tres Ríos.

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Rowers who braved the Atlantic Ocean help Guaymi kids
By Helen Thompson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Four British men with no previous rowing experience have recently finished making their way across the Atlantic Ocean to raise money for a charity project in Costa Rica.

After 48 days at sea eating dried ration packs and sleeping in bursts of two hours, the four were ecstatic to be the first boat of the race to dock in English Harbor on the Caribbean Island of Antigua Jan. 19.

Tom Harvey, a 29-year-old from Middlesex, got the idea from a documentary he saw about the Atlantic Rowing Race, an endurance test that covers between 2,800 to 3,200 miles (4,506 to 5,150 kilometers), depending on the route taken by the boat.

Soon he was searching out three more people as crazy as he to make up the rest of his team.

“I got a call from Tom while I was sitting at work,” said Harvey's teammate John Cecil-Wright, who lives in London. “I told him to call back in 10 minutes and I'd say yes or no. I sat there and couldn't think of a good reason why not.”

No strangers to a decent challenge, the men were already in good physical shape. Harvey and teammate Carl Theakston compete in grueling Iron Man competitions, and Robbie Grant recently finished 39th in the equally insane Marathon des Sables — six marathons run in six days through the Sahara Desert.

A year of training completed, the team started rowing Dec. 2  against 25 other boats.

They lived aboard the small boat, rowing in shifts, and spending their time off in the cabin, a place often too hot and stuffy to bear during the day time.

Christmas and New Year were spent at sea. Despite the tough conditions Cecil-Wright says that at no point did they consider giving up.

“Around New Year, we'd been rowing into a head wind for a couple of days,” he said. “Then it swung round, which we thought would be good, but the wind got so strong that it was hard to keep the boat on course. It was
Atlantic rowers
Tom Harvey, Carl Theakston, Robbie Grant and John Cecil-Wright at the start of the race.

just exhausting, but by that point you've come so far there's no way you're going to stop.”

The crew arrived to a harbor full of boats ready to congratulate them, with flares and fireworks let off from the ramparts and plenty of friends waiting to greet them.

“It was an amazing greeting and nice to get back on dry land,” said Cecil-Wright. “Even eating with a knife and fork again was a novelty. People have said we're crazy,my parents included, but in the end they became our biggest supporters.”

Cecil-Wright is now in Costa Rica, preparing to help construct a pre-school that the team's sponsorship money has funded.  A portion of the $60,000 they aim to raise will cover the cost of the building, which will be ready for use by Guaymi children by April.

Raleigh International, an adventure travel and charity company that works all over the globe, is co-ordinating the project, to be built in the Reserva Indigina Conte-Burika, which lies next to the border with Panama, south of Golfito.

Japan will donate instruments valued at about $500,000 to music institute here
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rica's musicians will be presented with half a million dollars worth of instruments donated by the government of Japan.

Chosei Komatsu, the conductor of the Orquesta Sinfonica Nacional de Costa Rica, has been working to secure the donation from his home country of Japan since he began his post with the orchestra in 2004.

Realizing that there was a lack of adequate instruments for the four institutions that make up the Centro Nacional de la Música, he worked with the Japanese Embassy to bring 134 new instruments to Costa Rica.
Children who attend the Instituto Nacional de la Música will be among the principal beneficiaries, receiving instruments such as violins, harps, euphonium, pianos and a gong, among many more.

The presentation ceremony will take place Tuesday, and be attended by María Elena Carballo, minister of Cultura y Juventud, Hidekazu Yamaguchi, Japanese ambassador to Costa Rica, and Alberto Carballo, director of the Centro Nacional de la Musica.

The 90 members of the Orquesta Sinfonica Nacional will also play the first movement of Johann Sebastian Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 under the direction of Marvin Araya.

The butterfly answers the hypnotic call of the city she loves
Lately I have been going back and forth from my small digs in the Residencia in Belén to San José. Recently, an apartment in the city became vacant, and with the help of a friend, I managed to snare it before someone else did.  Now I had two places where I could be.   No one can better explain where I am at the moment than my dear friend, Mavis B. And so she wrote:

The Wandering Butterfly

There lives in Costa Rica wonderful variety of lepidopterae.  She (for we call all butterflies “she”) prefers the city to the country.

One day she decided her nesting place was too large for one tired little butterfly.  She found a new perch miles away, far from the bustle and fumes of San Jose.

Before long, however, her wings began to droop.  The nectar she dipped into had no sweetness.  She noticed that others drooped even more, and the flowers around them were wilted and faded.

One day she perched on a bus with its nose pointed to the city.  The closer she got the more her wings perked up.  She reached her old perch, fluttered even higher, looked down and across her favorite city, and sipped deep of the urban nectar.  It was sweeter than ever.  “This is where I belong,” she decided.  Fluttering her wings, she perched happily on her wonderful balcony.

This last time my excuse for spending more than the usual day or two in the city was that my friend Bonnie was coming from the States to spend a week with me.  The only item my apartment had was my recently won Atlas refrigerator. In five days, with the mighty help of friends, the apartment was furnished (minus TV, Internet and washing machine) and ready for a guest and a party.

Mavis’ poem was read last Sunday at my housewarming in my new apartment in my old building in Sabana Norte.

Getting the tramites (procedural red tape) taken care of for the installation of a TV and Internet with Amnet was quite easy since it has not been that long since my last contract.  Getting the two connected is another matter.   The cables will not be installed for another week or more. I have barely noticed the absence of my TV.  I’m not into watching it.  Each time I change my environment I have
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

to reestablish my routine and habits.  Maybe I will leave some behind.

And speaking of changing one’s environment, the environment around the Sabana is making ready for many changes.  First of all, of course, are the seven (I think it is seven) high rises that are going to go up around the park.  One of them, just two streets away, is already at third story level. These buildings, my understanding is, will be condos or apartments plus retail business and offices.  At least, I hope they will house all three.  Then there is the new stadium that the Chinese are helping to build at the west end of the park, along with more paths, better lighting and more security for the park.

I didn’t know this, but most of the trees that were planted in the park after its incarnation as an airport were pines, eucalyptus and cypress, which are not native to Costa Rica.  Some civic and eco-minded groups have noticed, and are planning to replace them with trees that are, like the cocolbolo, guarumos, and robles sabana. When they are, the local birds and butterflies will once again be attracted to the park and the park will be, not just a peaceful haven, but an important ecological site within the city. 

I am delighted and congratulate the Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad, the Instituto Costarricense del Deporte y la Recreacion, the Municipalidad de San Jose and  Scotiabank.
The problem is going to come with the traffic.  Trees don’t make traffic, but those seven apartment buildings and the stadium certainly are going to.  And according to a friend of mine, those in charge of building the skyscrapers have not communicated as yet with those in charge of traffic in the city. As it is, right now the streets on both sides of the park become miserable parking lots during the two-hour “rush” hour each day.  Unless the people who are going to live in those high rises are going to work in them, too, I don’t even want to think about it.

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Bush signs two-week extension of overseas wiretap measure
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire serivces

President George Bush has signed a two-week extension of a controversial terrorist-surveillance program pending congressional action on a permanent measure.  Opposition Democrats want more judicial oversight for the eavesdropping program.

Thisis the law that allows federal agents to eavesdrop on overseas telephone conversations.

Bush agreed to another temporary extension of the government's wiretapping program but warned that members of both political parties in Congress must move quickly to make the surveillance permanent as he says it is essential to national security.

"If these terrorists and extremists are making phone calls into our country, we need to know why they are calling, what they are thinking, and what they are planning.  In order to protect the American people, our professionals need to have the tools necessary to do the job you expect them to do," he said.

U.S. intelligence agents currently monitor telephone and electronic communications between people in the United
States and suspected terrorists abroad under a law know as the Protect America Act.

A six-month extension of that law would have expired Friday.  After vowing to veto a 30-day extension, President Bush told political supporters in the city of Las Vegas that he agreed to a two-week extension so lawmakers can approve broader powers to wiretap without court approval and give legal immunity to telephone companies that have helped monitor those communications.

Critics say the surveillance program needs more oversight to protect the privacy rights of Americans.

Opposition Democrats say if the government wants to monitor communications between suspected terrorists abroad and people in the United States it should get approval from a secret court established under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Some Democrats also oppose immunity for telephone companies.

The two-week extension passed the House by voice vote and the Senate by unanimous consent.  House Judiciary Chairman Democrat John Conyers says the extension gives Congress time to consider responsible reform while fully preserving current intelligence capabilities.

U.N. agency issues report citing threats to Caribbean coral
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Warming temperatures and increasing storms are posing serious threats to Caribbean coral reefs and the people who depend on them for their livelihoods, according to a United Nations agency.

The report came from the the U. N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

During the last 50 years many Caribbean reefs lost up to 80 per cent of their coral cover, according to the Paris-based agency, which noted that 2005 was especially disastrous for Caribbean corals.

Worldwide, nearly 500 million people depend on healthy coral reefs for sustenance, coastal protection, renewable resources, and tourism, with an estimated 30 million of the world’s poorest people depending entirely on the reefs for food, said the agency.

Coral reefs are fragile ecosystems and current estimates suggest that nearly two thirds of the world’s coral reefs are under severe threat from the effects of economic development and climate change, such as coral bleaching, a direct result of global warming. Beaching takes place when coral reefs under stress expel the algae that provides color.
The agency’s warning came ahead of next week’s launch of“The Status of Caribbean Coral Reefs after Bleaching and Hurricanes in 2005,” by Clive Wilkinson, director of the agency's Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network, a report assessing the damage caused to the reefs by high temperatures and numerous storms of three years ago in the wider Caribbean, home to over 10 per cent of world’s reefs.

The report notes that the warmest year since temperature records began in 1880, 2005 witnessed massive coral losses through severe bleaching, up to 95 per cent in several islands including the Cayman Islands, Jamaica, Cuba, and the French West Indies. There were also 26 named storms, including 13 hurricanes, that year. 

Tackling the threats will require controlling further warming by dramatically reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the next 20 years and managing the direct pressures such as pollution, fishing and damaging coastal developments, the report says.
The report is co-sponsored by agency's Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission and written by 80 coral reef scientists and managers It kicks off the International Year of the Reef 2008, a worldwide campaign to raise awareness about the value of coral reefs and the threats they face, and to spur action to protect them. 

Educador, Venezuela agree to build a $5 billion refinery to go in service in 2012
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Officials in Ecuador say Venezuela is to help them build a $5 billion oil refinery that will become operational in 2012.

Oil Minister Galo Chiriboga said Thursday the refinery will initially process Ecuadorean crude, but when supplies are depleted, Venezuelan crude will be used. The facility will have the capacity to refine 300,000 barrels of oil daily.

The minister says a logistics study for the project should be
concluded by June and that it is a way of promoting Latin American investment in refineries.

Ecuador is capable of producing more than 500,000 barrels of crude oil a day, but has no refining facilities and must import gasoline.

Ecuador is the fifth largest oil producer in South America. The country rejoined the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries cartel last month after a 15-year break Venezuela is the only other Latin country in the cartel.

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Adrenalin games and beach sports to heat up Curridabat this summer
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Adrenalin will flow this weekend in Curridabat, as the first in a serious of summer games brings Central America's biggest BMX show to the San José suburb.

Callejeando 2008 summer games will bring beach sports and music to Curridabat park from 11 am Sunday, and celebrated Costa Rican BMX star Diego Lugo will lead the pack with his urban bike tricks.

The sports spectacular is free to watch, and also free to enter for anyone who wants to show off their own moves on a BMX, Rollerblades or skateboards.

The Municipality of Curridabat is organising the games, and Mayor Edgar Mora said: “We want people to fill the streets of Curridabat and that all the family will unite to enjoy the spectacle.”

Activities will continue throughout February, with an open-air concert by mambo music group Lubin Barahona y sus Caballeros del Ritmo singing in the park from 11 a.m.

More sports continue on Feb. 16-17 with beach football and volleyball played in the same park from noon onwards.

Various neighbourhood teams, including those from Barrio México, Sicorsa, Valencia and Goicoechea, will
BMX rider
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BMX rider takes a jump off a ramp - skills that will be on show this Sunday in Curridabat

play, but everyone is welcome to make up their own team of friends and participate. For more information or to register a team call 272-6714 ext. 223.

Art Galleries ....

48 etchings by 17th century master Rembrandt to be displayed here

San José will receive a visual treat from the Old World when 48 original etchings by Dutch master Rembrandt van Rijn will go on public display.  The “Grabados de Rembrandt” exhibition opens Feb. 8 at the Museos del Banco Central.

Rembrandt is best known for his dramatic and lively yet compassionate handling of various subject matters, particularly Biblical scenes and portraiture.  The heightened emotion accompanying his work is aided by his famous use of chiaroscuro.  Rembrandt's diverse thematic range will be represented in the exhibition. 

The exhibition will occupy the gallery space on the first level in the Museo de Numismática because of its high security and better exhibition environment. 

The works are on loan to Costa Rica from the Rembrandt House Museum and the Embassy of Holland. 

The exhibition runs through April 6. 

The Museos del Banco Central is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.  Admission is $7 for tourists and 1,000 colons for citizens.  Wednesdays and the first Sunday of each month have free entry for nationals with identification.

Imagen V show has a few gems but a pack of clinkers, too

videoartshowNew media art is always a bit hit and miss with the potential to come across as a foundationless piece of pretension if it is not done well.

The Bienal Iberoamericana Inquieta Imagen V, a competition for video artists from across Latin America, is a good example of this, containing a few pieces that engage well with the subject and make the most of their medium, but many that leave the viewer cold.

Most of the works are video projections, some as short as a pistol shot and the flight of birds and some as long as a didactic letter that teaches about identity, isolation and fuschia flowers.

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Mistaken identity? No such thing, says new exhibition

historiaoficialCosta Rica is a land of volatile volcanoes, orchids, coffee fincas, Catholicism and Ticos.

Or you could say it's a country of wide seashores, football stadiums, fast food restaurants and beach towns overtaken by Gringos.

Some are clichéd symbols of a tourist nation, while others are part of the country's changing culture, but all are involved in Museo de Arte Costarricense's new exhibition that challenges viewers to reconsider their own perceptions of the nation.

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Oriental engravings brighten up Semana
in Calderón Guardia

Japanese artOriental engravings that have travelled half way across the world from Japan have ended their journey in Museo Calderón Guardia, where an exhibition of 75 works was inaugurated Thursday.

Subjects from autumn trees to high-rise apartments chart the growing influence of the West and development on post-war Japan.

  All the art works date from the 1950s until the 1990s, detailing an important time of change as the country opened up its borders and ideas after the tragedy of the Second World War.

“We chose 1950 as starting point because there is a marked dividing line in Japanese art at this point. The country's art is very different to its precursors after this date," said a museum release.

However, the influence of the 30s and 40s can be felt in this  exhibition, as the bequest that it bestowed upon contemporary Japanese art is important to the understanding of this exhibition.

 To this end, the curators have involved artists who were also active in the 30s and 40s, the decades leading up to the divide in Japanese art, but who continued to produce and evolve after World War II.

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Festivals ...

Jacó to host international festival in promotion of anti-drugs culture

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

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

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Identidad Art Festival

Fifty artists will have the enviable job of displaying their work on a warm beach in Guanacaste this February, as part of the Identidad Art Festival.

Hosted by Playa Conchal Reserve, the festival aims to revive the cultural values of the area, promoting local art as a tourist attraction.

Painters, sculptors and musicians are all welcome to participate and show off Costa Rican talent to the high season tourists during Feb. 2-4. Interested parties should visit

First International Blues Festival

Texas blues bands are heading down to Santa Ana for an afternoon of live music. BBQ's and cold beers will accompany artists including Smokin Joe Kubek & Bnois King and Robbie Clarke & the Live Wire Blues Band.

Two stages at Motorpsychos Bar and Grill will host a total of seven bands during the afternoon of Feb. 9. Tickets cost $25 and can be found by contacting

Puntarenas Carnaval a mix of the traditional and the modern

If you didn't know otherwise, you could be forgiven for thinking that Puntarenas Carnival is largely about scantily clad ladies fighting it out to be crowned queen of the show.

However, the organisers claim that the carnaval tradition that will fill Puntarenas with people dressed in luminous feathers, steel bands, and brightly-coloured dancers, has roots that go back for thousands of years, to pagan celebrations of Baco, the God of wine.

Over time the carnaval has become related to Christian tradition, the date changing with that of the Easter week, and always falling around the time that Lent begins.

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Mini-mall comes to the rescue of the not-rich-but-hungry

food court

For those in the know, there is a clean, affordable, relatively quiet gastronomic surprise off the pedestrian mall in downtown San Jose.  Between Arenas clothing store and the Patio Restaurant, behind a perfume counter and a Pops Ice Cream sits a food court without a McDonald's, Wendy's, Subway or Church's Chicken in sight. 

Tropical Food is a counter selling relatively healthy food.  While their batidos aren't as delicious as the ones found at FrutiLand in Mall San Pedro, the water-or-milk-
blended-with-fruit drink is a refreshing treat to carry during your walk along Avenida Central.  A batido with the fruit of your choice mixed with water costs 650 colons, with milk, 750 colons.  That's from $1.30 to $1.50.

Adding honey or granola takes you up to a still-reasonable 900 colons ($1.80).  The store also peddles fruit salads, ranging from 700 to 1.600 colons ($1.40 to $3.20).

Marisqueria produces delicious looking and smelling seafood dishes.  A customer-friendly hanging chalkboard lists their menu and respective prices.  A small corvina ceviche will set you back 1,950 colons ($3.90).  Get a small rice with shrimp for 2.150 colons ($4.30), 2,800 ($5.60) for a larger serving.  Or try one of the fish filets prepared several different ways, the cheapest being with oil and garlic for 2,600 ($5.20) colons, the priciest fish filet dish is 3,600 colons ($7.20) for relleno with ham and cheese.

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Festive season proves troublesome even for established restaurant

vealBeing a chef in a busy kitchen must be a pretty stressful job, but around Christmas stress is something any successful restaurant should factor in as inevitable.

On a second visit to well-reputed French restaurant Le Chandelier, it soon became obvious that the staff were poorly equipped for the onslaught of Christmas party diners on a Tuesday night, leaving the usually decent food to deteriorate into a procession of almost inedible starters and bland entrees.

Set in an old San Pedro house with brick ceilings and wooden beams that was converted into a restaurant around 15 years ago by Swiss owner Claude Dubuis, Le Chandelier purports to offer French cuisine that has been developed over generations of experience.

Click here to read the full review

A great meal is not all in the presentation

musslesandfondue120407With a vaulted glass ceiling, palm trees lining the pathway and posh lighting, one would not expect Saga restaurant to be settled behind a dull parking lot in Escazú.

Although this restaurant may look out of place, it doesn't deviate much from the norm in Escazú, an area many would classify as suburban sprawl.

The majority of the cuisine at Saga seems to fit with the setting: classy presentation, yet lacking any profound flavors. Although the restaurant boasts itself as an “international food restaurant” on its Web site, much of the inspired cuisine is lacking the depth which would be found in authentic dishes.

Click here to read the full review

Dramatic Arts...

British group sets a record interpreting Shakespeare

nick bottomWhen actor Richard Clodfelter went to bed Sunday night, he was unaware that when he next awoke he would be in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Still sweating from the exertion of playing three characters in TNT Theatre Britain's version of "A Midsummer Night's Dream," Clodfelter recounts the news he received Monday morning.

“My producer Grantly Marshall called me from Europe at 5 o'clock this morning to tell me that we are breaking a record today. TNT is the first theater company ever to put on six different plays in six different countries on the same day.”

Costa Rica was one of those countries, with the first night of  "A Midsummer Night's Dream" performed to an audience of some 120 in Café Britt's Teatro Dionisio, Heredia.

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Sunny days in San José complemented by free concerts

MAFconcert The hot dry days are being put to good cultural use by the Museos del Banco Central with a series of outdoor concerts in the middle of the downtown area.

Hundreds of shoppers stopped to lean over the balcony in Plaza de la Cultura Saturday, when the Costa Rican singer MAF and her band played a sunny set of pop tunes outside the doors of the museum.

Although the series is named 'Conciertos en las gradas', fewer people sat to on the steps outside the Museo de Oro than stood around the edges, looking down at the stage.

Onlookers were enthusiastic about the music, in spite of the singer's annoying lack of the ability to dance. She has recently released her debut album, Viaje Cosmico, for which she was recognised as 2007's revelationary interpretive artist by Costa Rica's music association, Asociacion de Compositores y Autores Musicales de Costa Rica. 

An alternative offering of rock trip-hop is up next on Feb. 9 at 2 p.m., played by group Parque en el espacio. The band recorded a live CD in San Pedro's Jazz Café during 2006, called Hello Hello.

Miriam Jaraquín and Blues Latino will bring piano and accordion, flute and saxophone to the stage at midday on March 2., with an acoustic jazzy sound.

The final concert of the series will be on March 29., with trio Villegas playing some classic Spanish rock from 2 p.m.

Cultural prizes handed out to 2007's cream of the crop

Premio Magón

maria eugenia dengoA woman who devoted her life to the improvement of Costa Rica's education system was yesterday announced as the winner of 2007's Premio Nacional de Cultura Magón.

María Eugenia Dengo started out by introducing new subjects and professions to the Universidad de Costa Rica in the early 70s, and moved on to such respected positions as minister of Educación Pública and UNESCO regional coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean.

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National Culture Prizes

Hot on the heels of the Premio Cultural Magón winner have come the announcements of the numerous other national culture prize winners.

María Elena Carballo, minister of Cultura y Juventud, read out the long list of Premios Nacional de la Cultura 2007 Tuesday, in a conference at the Centro Nacional de la Cultura.

Along with the prizes for national theater, music, dance and literature, came two presented by the minister of Ciencia y Tecnología, Eugenia Flores.

Things started on a bad note, as Ms. Flores explained that the Clodomiro Picado prize for technology could not be awarded to anyone, as only two participants had entered, and neither fulfilled the criteria of the prize.

The science prize of the same name was dispatched to Felipe Mora Bermúdez, a biologist who won the award for his investigations into the condensation of chromosomes, and is currently working on a post-doctorate study in Germany.

In the theater awards, the recent Compañía Nacional de Teatro interpretation of Arthur Millers “All  My Sons” did well. Translated as “Todos eran mis hijos,” the production picked up awards in the best actress and best actor categories for the work of Eugenia Chaverri Fonseca and Gerardo Arce respectively.

Pilar Quirós was awarded best set designer for his work on Miller's play, but also for providing sets for two others, “Mal Dormir,” and “Fotografías de la lucha sin fin.”

“Bartleby,” also a national theatre company show in Teatro la Aduana, scooped two awards. Actress Andrea Catania won best supporting actress for her part in the Herman Melville play, while Alfredo Catania won best director. The judges called the play "a perfect theatrical experience," praising Catania for his artistic and creative adaptation of Melville's story.

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Books ...

Land use in Costa Rica documented by Fulbright scholar

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

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

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

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New book dwells on the social aspects of food

Food is not just a selfish pleasure or a way to stifle hunger, but is central to the evolution of art, according to a new book published by Museos del Banco Central.

Artworks by Costa Rican painters are the main content of the hardback book, “Imagenes para Comer,” which follows the representation of food in art since still life painting became popular in the Renaissance.

Full-color pictures of both traditional and modern works are far more common than recipes, as the author Marjorie Ross only provides seven recipes within the book.

All are traditional Costa Rican dishes showing influences from different sections of the community, such as corn fritters, white beans and chorizo and fruit salad.

The book focuses on the meanings that food has within society, and how these are portrayed by art.

Click here to read more

Adjusting to tight games means playing more aggressively

When you play no limit hold’em, the ideal strategy is to take minimal risk, do little bluffing, and hope that weaker players call you when you have a strong hand. 

But that’s the perfect world.  Sometimes you’ll face opponents that play very conservatively and will rarely pay you off when you have the goods.
Tables like these aren’t as profitable as loose games but there are adjustments you can make to clean up here, too.  In fact, if you approach tight games properly, they’ll provide a stable opportunity to steadily build your bankroll. 
Say you’re in a game where the other guys just seem to be waiting around for the nuts. They won’t play unless they’re dealt premium hands.

You can exploit this situation by playing more aggressively.  Raise more pots before the flop.  Look to steal blinds and antes, and try to pick up pots when the other players don’t show strength.  Use caution, though, especially when someone decides to call or reraise.
That’s the basic adjustment to make in tighter games, but it doesn’t stop there.  It also makes sense to bluff more at bigger pots, particularly if your opponents tend to play scared.

Beating a tight game requires focus.  You’ll need to seek out every opportunity where you can steal a big pot.  One way is by representing a hand that your opponents probably can’t beat. 

Let’s look at a situation where you should be able to successfully bluff out a conservative opponent.
With blinds at $5-$10, a tight player raises to $30 from first position.  You call the raise with 10c-Jc.  The flop comes 5c-6d-8c, giving you four cards to the flush. 

Your opponent bets out $50 and you call.  The turn card is the 7d, adding a straight draw possibility on the board.  He checks and the action is on you.

Because your opponent is a rock, there’s a good chance that he has a hand like A-K, A-A, K-K, or Q-Q. And if that is the case, well, he obviously didn’t make his straight.  Also consider that he won’t play a big pot unless he has the nuts or close to it. 

 A solid bet here and this pot is yours without even worrying about if you’ll catch the straight or flush on the river.  With $175 in the pot, a bet of $100 should be enough to steal this pot away. 
There are other ways to exploit tight players.  For example, they’re usually easy to read since the range of hands they’ll play is limited.  And they’ll tend to bet their hands in a straightforward manner – another clue as to their holding. 

Make sure to use the board cards to tell your story when bluffing tight players.  Be on the lookout for cards that you know your opponents don’t like.  When they do come, bet to represent a hand they can’t beat.

Keep in mind that this advice runs counter to the small ball style characterized by playing lots of marginal hands and needing a strong hand to play big pots.  Small ball just doesn’t work in tighter games because the big payoff isn’t likely to be there. 
As you get more accustomed to playing in tighter games, it will become easier to get a feel for the pots you can steal.  You’ll also recognize the ones that are best left unchallenged.  Even if your hand is very strong, if a tight player raises you back, chances are he’s got you beat.

Visit for information about Daniel Negreanu’s new book, Hold’em Wisdom for All Players.

Visit for information about Daniel Negreanu’s new book, "Hold’em Wisdom for All Players."
© 2008 Card Shark Media.  All rights reserved.

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