Tuesday, December 13, 2005

David Atenborough

This Zebra run away...

The possible purchase of one of Macaya's zebras ...

Isabel la Catolica

To blog about: the exhibition "Isabel La Catolica" on the Catedral of Toledo...

Teddy Bear

Notice the gentlebearly pose of the models on a shop at Claudio Coello...

Piotr Illich Tchaikovsky

my fifth each-on-a-different-country performance of "Peter and the Wolf"

Rory Gillmore

To blog about: the "Gillmore Girls" red-sofa-potato marathon...

Carlos Falcó

To blog about: the self-indulgences at Iberwine...

Pedro Teotónio Pereira

To blog about: the visit to the backstage of an ambassadorial Residence...

John Dillinger

The sad evidence of street-crime in the Ciudad...

Jean Nouvel

the guided tour to the new jean-nouvelish hotel...

Maurice Bejart

the Maurice Béjart disciple at the Théatre de Nîmes...

Hugo Pratt

the celebration of Hugo Pratt's contribution to popular culture in a calle of Zaragoza...

William Shakespeare

the awful "Antoine et Cléopâtre" at the Théatre de Marseuille...

John Baldessari

John Baldessari's exhibition at the Carré d'Art... Posted by Picasa

Denis Brihat

a pleasant lunch & photo expo in Aix-en-Provence...

Charles Darwin

Stuff diversity...

lobster, giraffe, bat, equidna, platypus, turtle, moose, linx, armadillo Posted by Picasa

( My favourite specimens at the Natural History Museum in Nîmes. Diversity is a battered word now. Even Darwin would be a social darwinist himself, had he still been alive.)

Eros Ramazotti

Roman mythological Paganism...

Uncle Eros can play the guitar too..

Thanks to discrete but firm backstage pressure applied by local diplomatic representatives, powerful countrymen of Signore Ramazotti, I managed to overcome the small inconvenience of sold out tickets.

I thought the Honourable Reader would like to feel the contrast between a mega-concert (although not quite of stadium-grade) like Coldplay last month, and this 500 people maximum hall on the ground floor of Pasha Club. ( the upper-floor, the Cielo, has already been mentioned in this blog, per party with a tiger (living one) not moved by hip-hop music).

In a small place even a regular gig becomes a memorable event. I was expecting a late-Thirties crowd, mostly Prince Charming-dependent, eager for soap-operish edulcorated songs but in fact Eros can rock - and the audience, younger than expected, knew it.

What was really worth mentioning? Well, the new trend to use your mobile phones, with sound recording abilities, as portable karaoke devices. (Lots of fans, knowing by heart the lyrics, were singing in sync to their nokias, perhaps sharing with their romantic interests those powerful latin-lover emotions). But, above all, I cannot forget several hundred voices chanting "Eros!..Eros! Eros!!". As I remarked to my Italianate neighbours, we were being transported to some Roman saturnalia, with the masses praying the God of Sexual Love...

Monday, December 12, 2005

Mariano Garcia

Fashionable Wine-Designers..

waiting for trendy wines to be tasted...
Tasting wines on a cold Saturday morning at 10 AM is a radical X-treme sport. "Lavinia" is a very professional wine-trade business which reminds me of some St James's-based universally known joints like "Berry Bros." The wine tasting theme was "Viños de Moda" meaning that we were going to try some non-traditional new wines that have been spotted by the gourmet journalistic crowd and talked about.
"Aalto" ( 2002), made by Mariano Garcia, the famed oenologist of top class Vega Sicilia was the first one to be tasted, and was recognized as a good example of new trends in the Ribera del Duero region; "Trasnocho" (also 2002) was a portentous wine of Fernando Ramirez de Ganuza (at 65 € a bottle the experience of new Riojas do not come cheap) ; "Pintia" (2002) the venture of Vega Sicilia in the Toro region was an interesting 100% Tinta de Toro ( a Tempranillo cousin); "Calchetas" (2002) was a curious blend of Grenache, Tempranillo and Malbec (!); "Paixar" (2002) from 60 years old vines of the autochthonous Mencí­a grape variety was one of the stars of the tasting; and "Mas Doix" (2002), another Alvaro Palacios-related venture in the Priorat region, is a sure winner. ( My personal favourites were "Mas Doix" (new style), "Paixar" (new traditional style) and "Trasnocho" (best nose) ).
The social dynamics of a wine-tasting are quite unique. A dozen people around a table with rows of elegantly-looking glasses who had never met before became a cohesive end-of-term classroom just after the fourth glass.. Is it the rising alcoholemia or the shared passion that act as social lubricant?.. It doesn't matter.. A cold Saturday morning can become a very warm experience indeed...

Friday, December 09, 2005

Ornithorhynchus anatinus

Taxidermized Monotremata..

A tender-looking platypus..

In Nîmes this blogger of yours also indulged in his passion for stuffed animals by visiting the local Natural History Museum. Now, the Honourable Reader might have some legitimate or well justified reservations against naturalizing the corpses of mammals and other animals.. but what about extremely rare species that one has fantasized about but never actually seen? Difficult argument, I know.. How can one explain the sheer pleasure of possessing the hard to find chromes of a platypus or of a echidna for a Natural Sciences Class project in High School, in the early 70's? How can one share the tenderness, yes tenderness, one has felt for these strange chimera, part-mammal, part-reptile, part-bird?
I was strolling around the XIX century-scented rooms of the Museum, old varnished wood display cabinets one after the other, when I found a timid platypus. Euphoria! Jubilation!
(I think I can tell you a secret here. A mentally sound adult can "talk" to a stuffed animal in much the same way a primary school boy talks to his teddybear. (Ysmailov, my stuffed penguin being a case in point) . The platypus in the Nîmes museum stroke a cord in the heart of this visitor. From the severely restricted ecosystems in Australia and New Guinea where the Ornithorhynchidae strive to a backwater town in Provence.. From a XIX Century scientific exploring mission to a contemporary fate in a forgotten display room.. What a Journey! .. What a Destiny! )

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Baron Foster of Thames Bank

Classical Roman Stone Architecture
Modern Aluminium and Glass Architecture

Foster's Carré d'Art dialogues with the Roman Temple at Nîmes

In the areas surrounding a jewel of Roman Architecure you have to be either extremely conservative (better still, go for an empty space) or daringly bold. Norman Foster 's boldness rewarded the city of Nîmes with another jewell that not only does not impair our enjoyment of the old temple but actually enhances our understanding of lines, space and other architectural stuff of the Roman limestone box. Bravo!

Marcus Aurelius

(Bull)fighting all the way from (Roman) History times..

the Roman arena in Nîmes

A recent trip to Provence confirmed the obvious. What modern use can be made out of almost intact Roman arenas? Operatic summer festivals? No, the answer of Verona does not strike the purists as a credible one. Open air museums of Roman Antiquity, with thousands of shorts-wearing tourists? Too gross, I'm afraid. The mathematical beauty of the buildings and a sense of Tragedy that can be still felt on those stones demand more. What can better a real life&death struggle between a gladiator in Traje de Luces and a horned black beast? Nothing indeed.
Enjoying a three-courses installment of the Mediterranean Diet followed by a bullfight in a Roman arena is the closest you can ever get to "Pane et Circensis"...

Sarah Jessica-Parker

Sex and the City (Barcelona) ...

A buddhabarish experience in downtown ramblas...

When one has a a credit-car slim SONY Cybershot digital camera permanently in one's jacket upper pocket and one feels the urge to research new material for one's blog what does happen? Well, the Honourable Reader is at this point quite aware that this blogger of yours can go to whatever lengths are needed in order to keep the customer happy (I mean you, dear Honourable Reader) .
I was spending a night in Barcelona as a stop-over in an otherwise too exhausting SUV drive from Parc Talabot in Marseille to Barrio de Salamanca in Madrid. My blog correspondent in the capital of the Catalan national identity, the TibetanCaravaggio, had suggested a trendy restaurant where a successful crash course on the night buzz of the Ciudad was guaranteed.
It was in fact one of the countless clones of the Buddha Bar, with obligatory huge goldenish statue of the Siddartha and chic-cool lounge music. Next to our table three designer-dressed blondes were re-enacting a Sex&theCity routine. One of the thirthysomethings was speaking on her tiny mobile phone and I really felt the image would be worth a thousand words.
Now, I cannot just start taking pictures in public spaces just like that, so I had to refrain from paparazzing crudely.
The food was very good, in particular a tuna carpaccio with an anchovy sauce that was really a good effort at sexyng up a sometimes too bland first course. The wine from Toro helped too. I remembered the famous Doisneau photo of a kiss ( "Le Baiser de L'Hotel de Ville") immediately after the Libération when all the supposed spontaneity was revealed afterwards to be the result of a careful mise-en-scène.

I gathered all my Toro-induced courage and went to the next table. "Would it be acceptable to take a photo?"- I asked, with my most charming smile. "And would it be asking too much if a simulation of talking at the mobile phone could be carried on ?" (My smile was as warm as a non-professional theatre actor can possibly muster). I'm glad to report that a positive feedback was obtained, on both counts. I returned to my table and I saw again in front of me the photographic vignette that had so impressed me almost an hour before. I took two photos and thanked the blonde model of that improvised photo-shoot.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Jean-Armand du Plessis

As seen in the Cathedral of Toledo: a cloak belonging to a Richelieu-like Cardinal (detail) Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Chris Martin

Coldplay: "un buen rollo" ..

and a near-mystical experience ..

Coldplay performing to a full house, at the Palacio de Deportes

- Coldplay too? But how did he managed?!!! The tickets were sold out six months ago! .. I can hear the admiring tone blended with skepticism in the question put by the Honourable Reader. How did this blogger of yours pulled this one?

Well it was a bit of a challenge I had thrown, half-joking, to MissRikyel, a week ago, while sipping an honest Moët. As she works in the underworld of fashion and glossy magazines I assumed she could be my last desperate card. (As a matter of fact I was entertaining at home at the same time a Young Turk of the Esperanza Aguirre Brigade, embedded in the strategic Consejeria de Cultura of the Comunidad, who told me even he could not help me. "Gallardon has kids you know" - was his cryptic comment, referring to the Mayor of Madrid. )

By yesterday lunch time, the very same day of the concert, and with no news, I had lost hearth and decided to honour, in any case, an invitation I had received from the formidable Byzantine-Levantine figure who heads the Lebanon diplomatic mission in this town. The National Day of Lebanon is a glamorous affair and I had therefore chosen the heavy dress-artillery (Canalli pin-stripe suit, Hacket "prince Charles"-pattern shirt, Turnbull & Asser woven silk tie, that sort of stuff) .

As I was entering the courtesy line my phone rings. The TeddyBear, in a short-breath voice, announces she was on her way to the Palacio de Deportes to meet a Manager of musical events who has decided, after refusing countless similar requests "from very high up", to deliver us two tickets for the in-one-hour's-time concert. That was it. No fuss.. and no expense too. And that's how I found myself slightly overdressed on a rock& roll concert, a VIP area free-beer in my hand, roaring and clapping at Chris Martin's antics.

I had almost forgotten the near-mystical experience of sharing with another ten thousand people the good vibes of non-aggressive rock music. And the rallied masses are of course always tantalizing view for a professional of political analysis. When Mr Martin was particularly inspired and the audience was red-hot and delirious I said to my neighbour: "Only in a political meeting in the middle of a revolution can a speaker get this kind of feedback". TeddyBear replied "Yes, but here you have a buen rollo.." (translatable as "everybody is enjoying themselves like innocent unproblematic happy adolescents"). Point taken. It wouldn't be the right description for what were the feelings of the Russian popular classes in the Finland Train Station of Petrograd, wouldn't it?

Two highlights of the concert:

- the chanting from ten thousand voices of the final words of "Trouble", so much in the right tone and mood that Chris Martin couldn't help himself and let out a heartfelt "Joder!, gracias" (which the Spaniard crowd obviously loved).

- the tender and loving stare from beloved Gwyneth to his beloved Chris. "Joder!" I feel like saying it myself. How can one ever compete with the adulating masses worshiping the very object of your love interest? Drieu La Rochelle used to say that women love in a man something that sparkles. A worshiped lead singer of a world-class rock band is sparkling all over, thank you very much..

(For obvious reasons this post is dedicated to Miss Matilde with all the daddy love from this blogger of yours)

Gwyneth Paltrow

Playin' the paparazzi..

Ms Paltrow staring at her own private Rock God
at the November, 22 concert of Coldplay in Madrid

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Charles Darwin

Stuffed science...

darwinian-theorized biological diversity

Whenever I'm in a new town I like to identify the local taxidermist connection. Normally one should try to visit first the Natural History Museums; then the smaller zoological departments; and then, hopefully, ending up in some slightly weird cave chock-a-block full of stuffed animals.

I discovered recently the small but rich collection of stuffed animals owned by Escuela Técnica Superior de Ingenieros de Monte, at the campus of the University of Madrid.

the 'Museo de Zoologia'

Ms. SierraDelPilar, a post-doc student whose pet investigative subject is freshwater fishes, showed me around. Told me wonderful things about the richness of the Iberian fauna, and some curious stories too. Apparently the immense man-made craters produced by motorway-building constitute, when filled by rain water, a very attractive habitat for long-legged birds with a nostalgia for lagoons.

Franck Muller

a B-movie, live from the calle...

the end of an affair.. Posted by Picasa

16.58 Avenida de La Moncloa, central Madrid . Slow traffic. The anorak-protected right elbow of a driver of a vespa-like motorbike unexpectedly bumps, with full impact, into the left side mirror of my car, provoking a complete dislocation of the mechanical articulation. Vespa rushes away. Slightly stunned I half-open the door to retrieve limping mirror.. and... whammm!... a guy, in a second vespa's passenger seat, is clutching my elbow and proceeding to extract my Franck Muller watch.

16.59 Avenida de La Moncloa, central Madrid. Traffic stopped. The strap of my watch lies in my hand. The oblong solid case has gone. The roaring sound of a speeding second vespa can still be heard...

Is the Honourable Reader not thrilled that in order to bring enjoyment to Him this blogger of yours is now reporting true events which could be more adequately included in tabloid TV, in "Cops!" or "CrimeWatch" programs , or in a black and white B-movie from the glorious days? I'm sure he is.

What image kept re-entering my inner mental retina afterwards? Strangely enough a slightly chaotic street market in Beijing, around the turn of the Millennium. The face of a tough Chinese vendor of fake luxury watches. Asking me 100 US dollars for a Franck Muller replica.

I kind of enjoy imagining the disappointed faces of the vespa gang...

Manuel Benitez, El Cordobes

Taurus et Thanatos ...

this blogger captures the moment two distracted but over-zealous guests
pour D.O. Priorat wine into their lady-neighbour's glass
Posted by Picasa

The charming HonoraryConsul of La Moraleja and his charming Aura-Mazdian Wife had some friends in town and organized another charming dinner, this time indoors. (A tribute to the wonderful weather of the Ciudad is reflected on the extension of the outdoors dining season - from March to late October in "Good" years).

The generosity of our Host with the fourteen point five-degreed Priorat wine had evident beneficial effects on the guests' conviviality. ( The Priorat region is the trendiest D.O. of Spain, as we speak, since Mr Alvaro Palacios had the eonological skill and marketing charisma to produce "L'Ermita", "Finca Dolfi" and "Les Terrasses" - this last name to be pronounced with Catalan accent and not in French, please) .
Among the Guests we had a female Scandinavian stag-hunter and a male Castillian bull-breeder. Inevitably, a clash erupted between the moral-high-grounded animal-lover Nordic and the full-red blooded defender of the right to kill a 400 kg plus black beast on an arena.
The Honourable Reader will excuse this blogger of yours for not engaging in the perilous route of the Corrida debate. Suffice to say that one should always try to make horse riders in the audience fully realize that Portuguese-style Corrida with XVII Century-dressed horsemen is of an even higher standard than the Dressage final stages of the Olympics' "Concours Equestre". Once they suspect nobody works a horse quite like that, their prejudice against barbarian suffering of the animal will somehow fade away...
But the real point of the bullfight, in the arenas where to kill the Toro is allowed, is the killing itself.
I inform my fellow dinner-guests that I have taken my little tribe (Matilde, Marta and Freddy), since early years, to witness Portuguese-style corrida, no problem whatsoever. A couple of years later I bought some barrera (front row) tickets for a Corrida in Seville. Six huge animals six were brought to Death in front of our very own eyes. In silence and in due respect for the Dionysian Mistery we were fortunate enough to still be able to witness. How can one understand otherwise the pre-Christian powerful mystery of Death in the current days? (If one is not working on a hospital's emergency ward, at least) . Is it not a better pedagogical experience than hyperviolence in Holywoodoid cinema? Than San Andreas-like PS2 games? Than televised violent death on the streets of Baghdad or Bradford? How can a young adolescent understand the dark hidden face of Death in Peace times? Not the grief for the loss of a familiar face, but the inexplicable moments of the passing away, the etherization (if you are a Believer) or the collapse (if you're not) of the living anima?
Because it was not just about good Priorat and blue-cordonned food, the dinner was excellent.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Jean-Luc Godard

BB at her Best...
When one has hundreds of TV digital channels at home, like this blogger of yours, sometimes there are unexpected jewels that erupt during the zombiesque zapping.
Brigitte Bardot in "Contempt" by Jean-Luc Godard was quite a surprise. What a wham! A 1963 film that goes straight to the soul of 2005 viewers.
With Michel Piccoli and Jack Palance, and with a superb hyper-modern management of architectural and landscape spaces, including the sea at Capri, I thoroughly recommend it to the Honourable Reader.

Read more about it at http://www.brightlightsfilm.com/20/20_contempt.html

Claudio Scimone

An evening with Venetian soloists...

bowing Maestro Posted by Picasa

Thanks to the Transalpine Homologue I got a chance to hear the "Solisti Veneti" , conducted by one of the most nice maestros I have ever came across in a concert hall, Claudio Scimone. You can read more about him either at
The program was designed to accommodate different centenaries. Boccherini died 200 years ago, and D.Quixote was published 200 years before that. So we had plenty of pieces by Luigi B., including a "fandango" with a guitar soloist, and a "Don Chisciotte" Ouverture by Giovanni Paisiello, beside a more typical "Solisti Veneti" repertoire, with Venetian Vivaldi as a sure bet.
The most enthusiastic applauses (and two "Bravo!" from this blogger of yours) went to clarinetist Lorenzo Guzzoni who was superb in Rossini's "Variazioni in mi bemolle maggiore per clarinetto e orchestra su temi di "Mosè in Eggito" e de "La Donna del Lago". A former first clarinet in the Orchestra of the La Scala, Guzzoni really gave it all ( a bit like Madonna in the recent MTV European Music Awards, in Lisbon).
I was really moved to see Maestro Claudio Scimone again. So many afternoons I have enjoyed myself in the Auditorium of the Gulbenkian Foundation, in Lisbon, in times gone by, listening to superb baroque and choral music whith Maestro Scimone at the helm.
After the concert I spot the Maestro, still in white tie, on a corner of the imposing rooms of the Consolato General d'Italia a Madrid. I thank him for all the pleasure I had in his company, in these concerts of the Gulbenkian Orchestra for which I had to queue for hours. The Maestro tells me he feels half-Portuguese anyway with the warm almost child-like smile that was, and still is, is trademark.
Grazie, Maestro!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Richard Strauss

cybershot Posted by Picasa

Richard Linklater

"Before Sunrise" cloning...

BeforeDawn Girls (Juliet D. and Margarida V.) Posted by Picasa

Remember what Richard Linklater's "Before Sunrise" did to Vienna? Well, a young company from the country of this blogger of yours has tried to do something similar to Lisbon.

As we blog, a theatrical adaptation (by Pedro Neschling) of Linklater's script is being performed in an almost seedy theatre at a non-glamorous neighbourhood of Lisbon. The main female character, our home-grown Juliet Delphy, is Ms. Margarida Vila-Nova, a pretty face of soap-operatic success.

In the current re-incarnation she is called Inês, is waiting for the Lisbon to Paris train, and she's a daughter of a diplomat ( ironic, no?). The leftwing leanings of Ms Delphy's original character are now translated into remarks against "fascism" in pre-74 Portugal (not impressed).

I recall that in the film the male character (played by Ethan Hawke) at some point suggested an idea for a TV series, where 365 people would be watched for one day each, in a one year long program.

What if every city in the world that considers itself of Vienna rank decides to adapt Linklater's script to the stage?

Well, this time it quite worked well for Lisbon.

Maybe "Lonely Planet" or "Time Out" will wish to produce something like that?

Obvious choices? Seville, Moscow, Rome, perhaps? The Honourable Reader might care to go on...

Cédric Kaplisch

The "Matrioshka Factor" in one's lovelife...

"Russian Dolls" Posted by Picasa

Took my little tribe, kicking and screaming as usual when a French-spoken film is concerned, to "Les Poupées Russes". This film from Cédric Kaplisch is the "some years later" sequel to "L'Auberge Espagnole". Young Europeans and their Europe-wide relationships, that's the main thing. Some of us from more open-to-the-outside-world peripheral countries without dubbing in home television, inter-rail fans or summer beach girls-chasers have been there for quite some time. Now, after Erasmus exchanges, it is becoming the norm. We all have friends now that are not from our safe mono-lingual neighbourhood.
That cosmopolitanism, and its corollary, I mean, speaking many languages and not just your own, has been typical of the cultivated elites in Europe for centuries (particularly among the aristocratic class). What is relatively new, and indeed revolutionary, is that it's becoming a mass phenomenon.
Apart from that, "Russian Dolls" worked for me in two other aspects. One, the attitude of the Russian bride towards his totally drunk groom on the wedding party. She laughed and was tender and understanding. (Most non-Russian young newly-weds would go straight to tragedy mode and make things worst. Learn with the Russian Dolls, babies!).
Two, the philosophical concept of the film, as stated in the end by the main actor. A guy has many experiences, girl after girl, just like the successive "matrioshkas" one plays with, until you get to the final one. But, I would enigmatically ask the Honourable Reader to consider, what if the last Matrioshka is a Russian doll indeed?

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Valérie Braddell

Tremendously praise-deserving efforts by Ms Valerie Braddell to make good Shakespeare in LisbonPosted by Picasa

Carlos Gardel

Miguel Ángel Solá and Blanca Oteyza
in "Hoy: El Diario de Adán y Eva, de Mark Twain"
by Mr Solá, Ms Oteyza and Mr Manuel González Gil, at the Teatro Reina Victoria, Madrid.
Sweet Latin sentimentality with a Buenos Aires twist.

John Retallack

A forbidden-to-take-during-the-performance photo of Carla Chambel,
the actress playing Juliet in Valérie Braddell-midwived "Romeu e Julieta" ,
at the Teatro São Luís, Lisbon.
A superb mise-en-scène by UK director John Retallak.