Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Hisham Bizri

Prado Museum meets Legoland..

Las Meninas with Virtual Reality technology Posted by Hello

( Some Honourable Readers were anxiously waiting for a new addition to Las Meninas' visual diet..)

Monday, May 30, 2005

Neil La Bute

A typical evening out in Theatreland ( Convent Garden) ...

A meal to remember, at "The Ivy" Posted by Hello

Spend a night in London before descending to the South. An emotional rollercoasting evening which I'm not prepared to share with the whole cybernetic outerspace populace. Two details only: a play by Neil La Bute called "This is how it goes", with Ben Chaplin, at the Donmar Wharehouse (with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc in my hand allowed inside the stalls area! O Britain of Yesteryears Where Art Thou?!); a superb meal (Scallops, Potted schrimps, Poussin des Landes) at the near-unbookable ubber-trendy "The Ivy" ( have a look at http://www.london-eating.co.uk/19.htm ) (Bumblebee, with toff-class aplomb, posing as Private Assistant to the visiting White Russian Countess, managed to get us a table with just 24 hours notice. Well done).
La Bute's play, with a mono-female bi-coloured love triangle, depicts, according to promo literature, a "forensic look at race and infidelity". Good stuff, no time for substantial review right now. I left the performance with the usual in-awe feeling that words and interjections in theatre-writing are a totally distinct matière première from the language source of novelistic literature. Words can even be the same but the medium makes them utterly distinct. At the peril of repeating myself: Good Stuff!.

Mark Hudson, Esq.

Milton Abbas, Blandford, Dorset: Secondary School Arcadia

Milton Abbey.. from Benedictine-Monks to PublicSchool-Boys Posted by Hello

(Readers and other Patrons are kindly advised to read the blogtext 'Claudius Tiberius Germanicus Britannicus', Thank You.)

Claudius Tiberius Germanicus Britannicus

Semi-barbarian Britons conquered by civilized warriors from Latin South...

Dorset, England at her very best.. Posted by Hello

Spent some lovely days with the LandMark Couple, in Blackmore Vale, one of the tamed-Nature Arcadias of South East England. ( Have a look at www.dorsetaonb.org.uk ). Drinks one can get pretty much anywhere, good food either. Charming company or engaging friends not as easy, but achievable. Serious intellectual stimulation outside lectures or books (or some plays) is, on the other hand, very rare indeed. OldBoy of the LandMark Couple is one of such few and far between catalysts of some lively, no-punches spared, real intellectual discussion. A sport for wimps would you say? No, Sir. When you rate yourself (immodestly) as owner of rather brilliant grey cells and you discuss with someone you take as your equal on that department, Victory or Defeat in a discussion is as close as it gets to a blood sport.

We discussed the relationship of Humans to Nature, in the fox-hunting debate context; ChelseaFC vs Liverpool, in the framework of hooliganic Britain; ID Cards and Civil Liberties; referendum negatives among Frogs;the Deferential Society still alive in UK, with sneer remarks to the obsolescence of the Monarchic Principle; green-headed wild birds; Women's stubbornness both in its General and in Applied forms; amoral awareness of sexuality in young teenagers and ways to prevent old-bore attitude to reality-shows modern reality.. All that with generous amounts of Pimm's long-drinked with homegrown peppermint..

Part of the Dorset visit was some kind of poetic Advisory Board Inspection of Public Schools. The admirable grounds and buildings of Milton Abbey School in Milton Abbas (photoblogged in a separated blogtext due to technical difficulties) with a schoolboys population described, in feminine contempt, as "Milton Scabies". The precious St.Mary's School in Shaftesbury (whose schoolgirl inhabitants are depicted, by the Milton Scabies, as "The Whores on the Hill" and their school as "The Virgin(s) Megastore"). Some other Preppies I can't remember respective names but endowed with magnificent buildings and grounds nevertheless. ( If the coast of Portugal and Southern Spain is doomed to be the Florida of EU Senior Citizens, will Dorset and Wiltshire become the Secondary School Land of Europe? Some extrapolations on a map of Europia followed on... Where to put Wineland, Delicatessenland, Prisonland, Surgicalinterventionsland, Sexland, Broccoligrowingland, to name a few? I leave to readers' politically incorrect imagination the guesses about our post-sovereignty speculation).
As we discuss the Roman conquest of the southern part of the Britannic Island, with Tacit, Greaves and Gibbon intermingled in our Alzheymer-proned memory neural-areas, a doubt arises. In result, part of my halfterm duties consists in researching on the origin of Britannicus and report back. I duly oblige. Claudius was the Cesar who led the campaign against the Briton tribes, alright, but since it happened AS his son (Claudius Tiberius Germanicus), by his third wife Messalina, was born - the name Britannicus was added to the baby, of Racine's immortalising memory. Anno Dominni 41.

(End of Part One, to use soap-operatic lingo)

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

author of Histoire d'O

Madame O. listen: Hot times are coming...

Adopt an otter at www.ottter.org Posted by Hello

First truly hot afternoon in the Ciudad. Driving from lunch - which took place at compatriot's restaurant where Vintage Port was open with incandescent claws-like tool - was a nightmare. (And one understands how a malfunctioning AirCon system in one's car can affect one's stand in the Market).
An early evening promotional event for my beloved Lisbon, which took part in the "Casino de Madrid" of Palais Garnier kind of Parisian Chic, was entirely spent in the consumption of enormous quantities of iced water to counter-act the high levels of Sodium intake at lunchtime, inherent to Codfish recipes.
Had supper at Otter's apartment with theatrical columns, Spanish caviar (meaning, tortilla) and red-trousered interesting population. Among the guests both a (stunning) lady-boss and her lady-employee, quite a curious anthropological situation to observe. The stories about paid lectures on gipsy slang next to pinball machines, and about colorful characters of near-underlife with XXXrated nicknames were great fun. And the real reasons why two Giants of SouthAmerican Literature don't talk to each other get an unanimous evaluation from all the males present: to reveal to a lady friend one fantasizes about that her man is not a model a faithfulness is the deepest form of scoundrelism.
I'm in ecological mood today, and I'm all for protecting endangered species: Save the Otters!

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Carlos III

Socialite Sunday..

Casual Clothing Posted by Hello

What happened to ritualistic coach-potating on Sundays of yesteryears? Casual clothes, like the near-shredded old Cashmere and some un-ironed baggy pyjama trousers, or, supreme indulgence, staying all day with previous night silk shirt, you had ended up sleeping with. No hair gelling, no steam-room antics, even no shower at all! All (sun)day long, pollinating some books and magazines, and weekend glossies.

Last Sunday was none of the above. Crisp trousers, linen blazer, and twice shirt changing, twice! Flea market morning trip more like Christie’s South Ken Monday afternoon; lunch with garden-formality with the Taj al~Sultana, Lalande de Pomerol, the Moralejian See-Eeh-O, Ruinard, Garbo and the Fischer-Asskicker; elegant dinner-party with the Torino Set (including the Hostess-Architectoress plus some Tías and Tíos).

At lunch the usual Clash of Worldviews: Centre-Right Politics vs. Liberal Centrist School of Economics. Should Emigration be included in the Sex, Religion and Politics triad of Thou-must-not-mentioned-it-at-table? Well, drama-free, non-confrontational meals are boring anyway. Seafood curry was bliss to such a chilli-addicted palate as mine.

At dinner, lots of reverse or paradoxical roles. A Milanese who berates the rojoneo and is very sceptical about added value of horse riding to the Corrida; a Florentine writer who’s straightforward and prefers Wednesdays to go out and liberate himself; a former transalpine HisExcellency who speaks with the courteous charm of Old Spain; against Cervantes, a female Pancho who’s slim and tall; and Parisian Frenchies who mock Paris. Glamorous Sundays and self-deprecating French: is the world upside down?

The skinny-legged smiling Otter was using a “as per our conversation last night” mini-skirt, with “risqué” fishnet stockings. ("Rollo" stuff?..). The fungi porcini married with the pasta in a sublime way . The risotto was up to the challenge thrown in by the perfumed mushroom neighbours at the dinner table. Delicate Palazzo-grade crystal glasses and old-Venetto porcelain contrasted powerfully with white urban furniture and mustard yellow-jacketed camareros. The Architectorezza well deserved an extra paragraph.

Mourid Barghouti

Crossing the Allenby Bridge..

I saw it too... Posted by Hello

Sometimes you enter a bookshop with a precise goal. That book and nothing else, a quick utilitarian raid, and off we go, back to the street. Other times it’s simply the accumulation of books in the shop window that attracts you (as peppery red sausages or soft mould-filled cheeses in prime window space in delicatessen shops). Most of the time we tend to alibi ourselves with some forgotten hardback grail just to cross the threshold of the bookshop. Once inside all pretence of a rational motive to be there ceases. We peruse latest editions, browse at random alphabetical shelves, walk around a multitude of sections (from crime to gardening, biography to self-help), sniff leathery first editions and sneeze at dust-covered book pariahs. Last Friday, I had a specific reason to enter the mammoth Circulo del Libro, in the Gran Via. I was trying to find the recommended bibliography for an after-hours short course on Mudejár Art. I end up with a small paperback to add to my Peace (sad ironical misnomer) Process personal library. Mourid Barghouti's "I saw Ramallah".

The list of people involved with this book read like the Almanach de Gotha of Palestinian and Egyptian Belles Lettres. Barghouti, the poet, has described the journey back to his pre-67 home; Ahdaf Soueif (of The Map of Love fame) translates; ; Edward Said writes the Foreword (Uncle Edward, R.I.P., was the Anti-Orientalism post-modern New Yorkese Palestinian intellectual fashionista who I once saw picking the right Wasabi and Ginger Dressing from Harvey Nichols' fifth floor shelves); and Naguib Mafouz names the Award the book has collected. Even Mahmoud Darwish, the Poet, is glimpsed on the streets of Ramallah.

If one wants to get a humanist, gentle and tender-sad account of what it means to a "returnee" to return to Palestine this is the book to read. Much better than the usual stuff, better than the (oh so tempting!) tribal self-pity and victimization, better than subtle Jew-bashing disguised as intellectual Anti-Zionism. Much better than Strategic Institutes-centered cold statistical data. Much better than the eternal plea-bargaining both sides have been involved with since it all begun.
Just to give you an appetizer, when Barghouti speaks of the generations of Palestinians strange to Palestine he writes:
" (...) Generations that never saw our grandmothers squatting in front of ovens to present us with a loaf of bread to dip in olive oil, never saw the village preacher in his headdress and Azhari piety hiding in a cave to spy on the girls and the women of the village when they took off their clothes and bathed, naked, in the pool of 'Ein al-Deir. Yes, the preacher steals the clothes and hides them in the bramble tree so he may gaze long and hard at the tempting beauty of the women. Never in his life will he see temptation like this: not in the nightclubs of Europe, or his grandson's louche parties at Lumumba University and various western capitals, or the sex shops in Pigalle and St. Denis, or even in the swimming-pools of Ras Beirut and Sidi Busa'id. (...) "

(If one has crossed oneself the Allenby Bridge in the Jordan River, separating 'Transjordania' from 'Cisjordania' the images described in the book have undoubtedly an extra spice. As I blog this, I think of Nadja and of her Amman family.)

Friday, May 20, 2005


Multicultural afternoon drink

calligraphy Posted by Hello

Wandering around the City of the Writers. End up seating in a square with white parasols, looking at a beautiful neo-classical facade. In the table next to mine three girls chat and one of them, heavy suntan or light dark-skinned, is drawing something. After the obese green olives and the guilt-inducing patatas, I risk a glance at the drawing. It's Arabic calligraphy !
A short-legged dog, 1/8 cocker spaniel and 7/8 unspecified canine DNA, makes his appearance in the square, with the blind energy of a Logroño bull erupting in the arena. The Calligraphic Girl stands up and engages in football playing with the mongrel. Her neighbors leave. After some tail-wagging soccer she returns to the table and asks the bill. Collecting her art writings she waves a goodbye to the piercing-studded camarero: "Ciao, Habibi!".

1st Duke of Frias

Computer-enhanced picture of Pedraza's Plaza Mayor

pedraza Posted by Hello

(Seems like I've reborn again as a picture-blogger..)

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Jean René Lacoste

" Jacaré que vacila acaba em bolsa de Madame"
Dining out in the new trendy cool must-be-seen-there-at-all-costs eatery. Table set in strategic spot where dilettante browsing on aboriginal beauties could be performed discretely. Some meditation stuff, both Zen and non-Zen, is discussed at some point. Maybe it was out of that self-helpish context that someone remembers a Brazilian popular say: “A vacillating crocodile will end up as a Lady’s handbag”. You have to pronounce it in a “watch out” mode – and phonetically it will be something like this: [ Djá-ká-ré kee vá-tsi-leuh ákáb-eyn bol-ssa dee Mádám].
Watch out...

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Sigmund Freud

Psychoanalytic Dinner-Parties...
The Crusader included me in his latest dinner-party, of outstanding and just fame. A micro-environment where I can speak in a non co-official language. Bliss. A very pleasant bunch of guests in Feria de San Isidro times. A couple arrived a bit late: we are told that the husband had gone to Las Ventas and left after the 5th bull. A guest arrived horribly late: she confesses that she stayed for the 6th. "Was it any good?" - asks the envious but still punctual co-guest. "Un desastre!" replies the Grand Lady.
A pin-stripes suited charming French guest engages some of us in comparative geopolitical-psychoanalysis. "How could one describe the relationship between French and Spaniards versus the rapport between Portuguese and Spaniards? "- he asks from me. One tries to be extremely diplomatic in hyper-sensitive issues like this. A bit of easy-listening History, a light joke or two, an implicit courtesy to the concept of European Powers, and one can sail away without major hiccups. A smiling and good humoured member of that little committee, Greek from birth and now married to a Spaniard, tells us about a recent visit with a group of Spanish friends to a famous Museum-Palace in the South of Portugal. Not that far away from the border with The Neighbor, now that one thinks about it. That she had tried to be an honest broker to end a very vocal conflict that erupted between the Portuguese tour guide and the Spanish tourists on somewhat diverging interpretations of a chunk of shared History (and Sovereignty...). And that she ended up being the sacrificial scapegoat-goat in a very heated argument. We decline to pursue the theme. Either we all undergo historical psychoanalysis and have our respective therapeutic catharsis regarding the Times of The Felipes, or better to stick to a "don't mention the war" attitude.
When one thought that Uncle Sigmund and his "Récamier" plump divan were out of the way, a beautiful late-comer enters the room and confesses herself, poor child, a follower of a post-Freudian psychotherapy school.. And a diploma-carrying Psychologist practitioner at that.
I remember, on my previous life, the stern warning from a white-haired Psychiatry Professor who learned his trade in Germany, as it used to be when one was serious about it: "Never fall into the temptation of doing "Psychanalyse de Salon". Out-of-the-hat so-called psychoanalytic interpretations can be very damaging.. Does that also apply to Countries being asked gently to lay down on the coach?
I tried to impress the black-dressed guapa Psychologist with vignettes from previous life, showing off a firm grasp of Neurochemistry subtleties and trying to rub Uncle Sigmund's face in the mud that stucks at the bottom of the Litter Bins of History...

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

D. Bernardino Fernandez de Velasco, 1st Duke of Frías

Leaving Las Vegas...

(A beautiful photography of Pedraza, a glamorous medieval castillian village, was supposed to be shown here, but I'm having another bout of the recurrent problems with posting pictures)

Thanks to the Honorary Caliph of Moraleja I was introduced last Sunday to two of the most shining jewels of the Castilla crown: Pedraza and the "cordero lechal". We collected a couple of Romanic Churches on the way to the "suckling lamb" (if one translates freely). It included StMary's Church at the Castillo de Buitrago, the Iglesia del Salvador in Sepulveda, Pedraza itself and (my favourite) the small Ermita de Nuestra Señora de las Vegas in the fertile valley (a "vega") on the road to Segovia. H.E. is keeping an analogical photo record of all those churches and the end-product, in just a few years, will surely be quite impressive. The Ghajar Princess, like a modern day Taj al~Saltana, was at her very best guiding and smiling mode.

Pedraza has some traits of the "S.Tropez curse". An exceedingly beautiful place that is spotted by the happy few and then succumbs to its own popularity. With the current obscene fascination with the rich and famous ( translated in the six-digit circulation figures for the voyeuristic press) a town favored and inhabited by celebrities quickly becomes a pilgrimage spot. The discoverers then become bored with sharing their pet-village with the tourist mobs and move on to start it somewhere else, all over again. But it's still a very charming place and outside weekends it must be bliss. (If the honourable reader asks himself what's the role of D. Bernardino in this text, suffice to say that the status of the fortified town of Pedraza had much to do with the fortunes of the Fernandez de Velasco, Condestables of Castilla).
The "cordero", on a small inn by the road, as we were departing from Las Vegas, was outstanding. And I will refrain from elaborating on the qualities of a good "morcilla" as a countryside first course...

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Jules Marie Auguste Leroux

Untitled blogtext

The most famous illustrator of GC's "Histoire de Ma Vie" at his best..

Literary impulses of a romantic nature are normally post-fact. A morning-after nostalgic remembrance; a still fresh echo of a loss; or the obsessive reconstruction of a narrative which bears an unsatisfactory end. Brodsky said it before, in cruder terms : "All poetry is post-coital".

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

H.M. Queen Claude of France

"Reine- Claude", "Melancia", "Oreo" : beware of false appearances...

Queen Claude of France, (first) wife of François Ier

"Claudia" is not a very common name. In recent times I got acquainted to a fellow-blogger, whose blog I thoroughly recommend, "O Mundo de Claudia" at http://claudia.weblog.com.pt But what "claudia" evokes with a strong and pungent whiff of Youth nostalgia are Summers filled with indulgent eating of small greenish prunes, the "reine-claude".

The "Reine-Claude" designation for those Mesopotamia-born prunes points to the role of Queen Claude in making her Royal Gardeners succeed in the acclimatization of the species in France. They are superb fruits but a bit of a paradox. What their surface tells us is different from what lies deep down at the core of the fruit.

Johan De Fre's "Reine Claudes". oil on canvas 5'' x 8''

The Reine-Claude can be entirely green on the outside, pretending to be slightly acid, youngish and immature, when the pulp tells us a different story. Mature, deliciously sweet. The Frogs call it the "Queen Of Prunes", a fruit of the Sun par excéllence, achieving her maturity only at the end of July and allowing herself to be enjoyed for only six short brief weeks. A conundrum fruit, indeed. "Reine-Claude" are all those no longer that young ladies that Nature and good Cosmetics make them look juvenile and "green", while they are in fact perfectly ripe to be tasted.

Another such paradoxical fruit is the "Pastèque", the "Melancia", the huge green mellon who's heart is red. Sometime ago the ecologist militants in my country were called "Melancias" because although nominally "Green" (and members of the Green Party) they were looked upon as Trojan horses from the Communist Party, whim whom they always joined forces to battle on in General Elections. They appear to be Green but their heart was Red, that was the suspicion.

That takes me to the third "beware of illusions" item. Not a fruit but a chocolate, the "Oreo" chocolate. As you might know it is chocolate-brown on the outside but the filling is pure white. One of the worst insults an African-American can throw at another African-American ( at least according to Tom Wolfe's "A Man in Full "). A kind of successor to the "Uncle Tom" insult. An "Oreo" is a Black man that deep inside thinks and acts as a White. A kind of inverted Michael Jackson, when you come to think of it.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Velazquez's Computer Clones

The protagonists of the "Meninas" looking at the finnished masterpiece...

Eva Green

After her role in Bertolluci's "Dreamers" it could only get better..

Ms. Green in Sir Ridley Scott's "Kingdom of Heaven"

Eva Green's photo is just a shameless ploy to get readers on board. In fact this post is a 'blognews' item.

Sometimes one just has a casual look at somebody's blog, usually strictly limited to the latest post, and that's it, one moves on. I wanted, you see, to inform fastidious readers that since last Friday I've worked on three different blog-themes three. A late-evening party I attended at a trendy club, featuring protected mammals, birds and reptiles; a movie ("Kingdom of Heaven") which involves crusaders and the Holly Land; and a politico-historical date, VE Day sixty years ago, that brings to the fore, once again, the ambiguity of our rapport towards Stalin. For more details keep on scrolling. First station " William C. Bullit", then "Salaheddin Youseff ibn Ayuub" and final stop "Joseph Vissarionovitch Djugashvili". Meet you there.

William C. Bullit

"Party Animals" Of The Two Kinds

Yuri Lyubimov's "Master and Margarita" at the Taganka Theater, Moscow - Satan's Ball

More quick-brained readers – or, should I say, yet uncorrupted by Alzheimer humiliating side effects - might remember I once referred to the gentleman offering his name to this blog-text. The first US Ambassador to Soviet Russia, mentioned a propos George Kennan’s recent death, was, it seems, a sort of a “Party Animal” (besides beeing a writer and a friend of Freud. "So close to greatness" is the significant title of a recent biography). He loved parties, and during his tenure in Moscow, Spaso House was the stage for many memorable parties. “ Attended not only by high-ranking Soviets and foreigners, but also by animals from the Durova Animal Theatre, which performed in both expected and unexpected ways” (Rebecca Matlock in “Spaso House – A short Story. Residence of the Ambassador of the United States of America”). As a matter of history, in April 1935, Ambassador Bullit threw a “Spring Festival” party that stunned all those who attended. “Countless animals and hundreds of songbirds were on loan from the Moscow Zoo for the evening; the halls were smothered in roses and tulips; there was food in abundance, rivers of cascading champagne, unexpected lighting, dancing from the Caucasus…” . Mikhail Bulgakov was among the admiring guests and as soon as “The Master and Margarita” was published there were claims that the famous satanic ball scene ,“Spring Ball of the Full Moon”, where Margarita was the naked hostess for that night, had been inspired by that memorable party. (Many decades later the current inhabitants of Spaso House, the Vershbows, did organize a commemorative re-make of that “Spring Festival”.)

Why am I telling you all this? Well, a couple of days ago, I went to a party at the snobbiest club in town, its attendance being akin to having arrived to Heaven, both literally (the last floor in the culmination of successive ladders) and socially, and therefore aptly named “El Cielo”. One of the hosts of the so-christened “Jungle King” party contributed to the general merriment by sending from his family finca a number of carefully chosen guests of the Animal Kingdom.

When arriving at that dark clubbing space, with stroboscopic lights flashing and R&B funky-syncopated high decibels, one could see a majestic tiger, on leash with his own PT; a small boa circling the neck of a philosophical zoo guard; and several rapine birds perched on special gauntlets. An enormous cool-looking owl obviously enjoying herself, attesting that Biology made her more used than her friends to nocturnal activities; a regal royal eagle who caused a considerable mayhem each time she decided to deploy her imposing wings; and a nerd-looking falcon who seemed lost for "words". One could also stare at a she-monkey, grimacing in a slightly menacing way to every newcomer and at a green-blue parrot exchanging confidences with a green-blue dressed young lady. There were some farm animals too. A very young, puffy baby-faced smiling girl was carrying a tender-looking goat in her arms. I asked her if the goat had a name. “Yes, of course. She’s Pepa”.

So, glass in hand and all our muscles flexed we engaged ourselves in some serious partying. I patted the tiger on his head; it strangely felt more like touching a dusty bashkir rug than a mammal fur. I smiled back at the ironical monkey. I caressed the snake’s skin in the right way, smooth as a synthetic high-fashion fabric. The rude owl turned her back 180º on me. And, as I was leaving the party, I said nigh night to Pepa.

Salaheddin Youssef Ibn Ayyub

The Franj and the Saracens, always fighting the last Crusade…

Children, I mean, my children for real, do not take "The Kingdom of Heaven" as the last historical word about the fall of Jerusalem in 1187. The battle might be lost for so many who just wait for the "final" consolidated "truth" brought by epic cinema to file that particular historical archive in their personal databanks. But Children, you’ve been there in the Holy Land, in the Horns of Hittin and in Saladin-walled Jerusalem! You, my daughters, no doubt fantasize about Orlando Bloom but Balian of Ibelin was the Lord of Toron, Oultrejourdain, Nablus and Ramallah, and you have traveled there! (Remember the narguileh your DNA-donor bought in a nice tobacco shop in Ramallah, with an imposing humidor room, not far from Hanan Ashrawi's place?).

I really enjoyed the film, of course. Several reasons and the usual mental links that pop up like junk-advertising on the Net. (I even shared Salzburg seminar discussions with the present day Guy de Lusignan, for goodness sake!). Just as an example, I always felt that there must be a away to resuscitate the grandeur of awesomely beautiful places like the Casa de Pilatos or the Alcazar of Seville. Thanks to Ridley Scott I've found the answer. An epic with this kind of means can bring alive again these unique gems of our architectural heritage. That could almost be reason enough to go and see the movie. But there are the more serious motivations too. The key issue of tolerance, to begin with. (Uncle Ridley wants to make a "dialogue of civilizations" point, and I'm all for that, of course. The whereabouts of extremist Reynauld of Chatillon versus the moderate Jeremy Irons (Sorry, Tiberias. Although it looks to me he's a fictional clone of the real life, Arabic-speaker, leader of the "appeasers", Raymond, Count of Tripolis). A metaphor for the respective fates of the two main Western postures towards Islam. The generosity of Saladin when conquering Jerusalem, refusing himself and his men to tit-for-that the previous century massacre when the Holy City changed to Christian hands.

( As Frederico, a dear friend of mine used to say: "You're a privileged bastard. You can't discuss Sex, Politics and Religion at table but you've lived in the places where those Totems acquire a sense for us all. Lucky fellow! How can one understand Religion without diving in the Middle East shallow waters and breathe Jerusalem? How can one say anything meaningful about Politics if his knowlegde of the Russian Revolution world is not first-hand? A Moscow stay as a passport for understanding what Democracy is all about." I quickly remember him that he forgot Sex. "Sex? Elementary, my dear Watson. Moscow, again, of course." )

The dialectics of theory and praxis are crucial here. So, having been there on the Land and seeing the film is not enough. Some further reading is highly recommended. I went again for the story of Baldwin, Saladine & Co on two books I had at home. Professor Steven Runciman immense and immensely boring "History of the Crusades" and Amin Maalouf's fair attempt at fairness in "The Crusades as seen by the Arabs". (Delicious the way Arab historians referred to Raymond, son of Raymond and from the lineage of the Saint-Gilles, as "Raumundo Ibn Raumundo as-Sanjili ").

The serious point I'm trying to make here is obviously that every effort to understand the Middle East is worth doing. The roots and the core of almost every single serious issue nowadays are there.

I remember how surprised I was when in heard for the first time in a Palestinian mouth the word "Crusader" used as a contemporary insult.

As Maalouf said in 1983, closing that book: " (...) political and religious leaders in the Arab world constantly speak of Saladin, of the fall of Jerusalem and of its re-taking. Israel is assimilated, both in the popular voice and in certain official discourses to a new crusader State. Of the three divisions of the Palestine Liberation Army, one still holds the name of Hittin and another one Ain Jalut. President Nasser, in his times of glory, was regularly compared to Saladin who, as himself, united Syria and Egypt ... and even Yemen! As to the Suez Canal expedition in 1956, it was interpreted, as in 1191, as a Crusade engaged upon by French and English. (...) its obvious that the Arab East continues to see in the West is natural enemy. Against it, any hostile act, being it political, military or "petrol related", is nothing more than legitimate payback. And we cannot doubt that the fracture between those two worlds stem from the crusades, still today seen by the Arabs as a rape.”

Children, go and see the movie. Enjoy it. But go further, please.

Joseph Vissarionovitch Djugashvili

The (Un)Ambiguous Stalin..

9th May 1945/2005

Sixty years after VE Day we are still walking in muddy political and moral grounds. On TV one can see a Red-starred Great Patriotic War train arriving at a Moscow station carrying Veterans and a poster of Stalin is present. Numerous Russian voices deplore the unbalanced recollection of the war effort by Western historians, being particularly aggravated by the fact that not enough attention is paid to the titanic dimensions of the Red Army exploits in the Eastern Front when compared to the relatively small-scale of the fight in the Western front. (Only the Landing on Normandie manages to get itself in the Top Ten Battles of the War.). Point taken, but the real issue, I think, is somewhere else. What we witness in Russia is a nostalgic philo-soviet commemoration. And it’s sad, really. The expectations were so high, just a few years ago, that the West and East, in European geopolitics, were to be turned into dated, useless concepts. But in the end, as we stand now, Stalin is still a player.

Stalin legitimised, by defeating against terrible odds the German Army, the Soviet power in Russia. All hopes that one day an ordinary Russian could see the Revolution crimes and the misery of post-Revolution life for what it was really like, and draw the necessary conclusions about their murderous leaders, were lost. What “primes” the Russian psyche is Stalin the saviour and Soviet regime as sinner but nevertheless the winner of monstrous fascism.

Whenever things are not that bright in Russia (even with oil at 50 dollars a barrel!) the old and current generations in power assume almost at an unconscious level a “soviet” “cold-warish” “inferiority complex towards the West” arrogant mentality. Even more saddening, the newer generations have not jumped forward, and “Asiatic vs. European” pseudo-explanations for Russian motivations continue to flourish.

A westernizer liberal filo-European Russian writer, Viktor Erofeev, published recently a must-read book called “The Good Stalin” where one can understand just how the myth of Stalin is still relevant in contemporary Russia. I quote from his book “(…) I have grown up and I have understood: the West and the larger part of the Russian intelligentsia have their own Stalin, but numerous millions of Russians have another one. They do not believe in a bad Stalin. They do not believe that Stalin tormented and tortured to death any one. The people have carefully fetched an image of a good Stalin, saviour of Russia and father of a grand nation. My father was side by side with my people. Do not offend Stalin! “

In the end, we are not commemorating exactly the same things, when, in 1945, both democracies and a totalitarian regime defeated Nazi Germany. And that equivoque still persists.

British historian Norman Davies put it beautifully:

“ So historians have a problem. Somehow they must find a way of describing a complicated war in which the combined forces of western democracy and Stalin tyranny triumphed over the Axis. They must give pride of place to the role which the Soviet Union played in the military defeat of Germany, just as the US shouldered the main burden of the war against Japan.

At the same time they must emphasise that Stalin’s triumph had nothing to do with freedom or justice, and that by western standards the overall outcome was only partly satisfactory. It is a tall order. To date, nobody has succeeded.”

Happy 60th Anniversary!

Thursday, May 05, 2005

D. Gaspar de Guzman y Pimentel, Ribera, Velasco y Tovar

A Capital for an Iberian Empire? ...

Agent Provocateur

Can't find the bibliography now, neither googling helped me, but I remember one of my former His Excellencies telling me that the Conde-Duque de Olivares, first minister to Filipe IV, was convinced that the price for keeping the unity of Iberian Spain was the designation of Lisbon as its new Capital..

Today, I read in "El Mundo" a column by Raul Del Pozo, titled "Agujero negro" about all the centrifugal critiques harassing Madrid and the Madrileños. ("Black-hole", because Catalans have supposedly described Madrid "as a Black-hole and the siege of the mediatic Right"). There's a paragraph I feel like sharing with readers, but I don't dare a translation. So, non-Castellano-speakers abstain, please.

"(...) Si hay que adelgazar el Estado, ya anoréxico, quitemos la capitalidad y que se vayan con la sardana a otra parte. Madrid fue declarada capital del imperio por una decisión caprichosa y arbitraria de Felipe II. Su padre el emperador le aconsejó que se fuera de Toledo para huir de los canónigos; la corte debió estar en el Guadalquivir donde las gentes se agolpaban en las orillas esperando el oro, o en Barcelona, archivo de la cortesía o en Lisboa, fundada por Ulises, pero no fue así y los nacionalistas piensan que la Puerta del Sol es el centro geográfico de una España inexistente, cerca de un río sin carnes, un esqueleto de cristal. Si Madrid mata, si Madrid es un lugar de pocas palmeras, donde una vez vinieron los franceses pero se olvidaron de traer la guillotina, mejor que nos dejen en paz. (...) "

Eduardo Laborde

Madrid at his New-Yorkish best...

Eduardo Laborde's "Vista desde el Circulo de Bellas Artes, Madrid.2003". Mixed media: photography and oil.

One doesn't know what Uncle Friedrich would make of it but "Nietzsche - Art& Drinks" looks like a winner in the arty-drinking scene of the Ciudad. A masterful concept in the progressive intertwining of the two most fashionable activities in self-conscious European trend-setter Capitals, attending an Art Gallery's vernissage, that is, and enjoying a stand-up drink. As the locals put it: "combinar uma galeria de arte con bar de copas". This time works by Lalo were on show (http://www.eduardolaborde.com/ )

The Garden Biker kept introducing me to new faces and one's near-Alzheymer shortcomings with name recalling got very acute in the end. Names like Emma and Hortensia, I do remember though, so deliciously non-Nitzschean...

At some point, a young Consultant (name neither saved, nor backed-up, sorry) engaged one with the concept of "organic job". Like a broccoli or a raspberry well worth deserving a certificate and special fiscal protection by the State. What could be taken as a ecologically-correct, certifiable, "organic job"? A job where the proximity of a tender sea breeze would replace air-conditioning; a job where working hours would feel like organized idleness; a job where every bureaucratic scribbling would be done in recycled paper; where the right to siesta would be added to the European Constitution; where the coffee & sandwiches tray at mid-morning pauses would be replaced by guahavaca and passion fruit juices; where all work stations would have magnificent views... "Organic Job" quickly turned into a new Utopia ...

Mercedes Casa Ocampo II

The mastiff gets the spot light...

Ms. Casas Ocampo, my newly discovered member of the 'Post-Las Meninas Painters Society' is exhibiting her latest paintings in Galeria Paz Feliz, just two blocks away from the door of the building where I live.

Mercedes Casas Ocampo

Even with faceless characters ...

An Argentinean painter ( http://www.casasocampo.com) also under the spell of the "little ladies"..

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Jane Suzman

Everybody is looking at the sleepy mastiff...

(Just improving my skills to display a photo on this blog)

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Manuel del Palacio

Satirical orgies...

In the morning newspaper a journalist, rather a columnist, makes a reference to how the satirical XIX century writer Manuel del Palacio described an orgy. Can't help to share it with you:

" Tanto les deleitó la putería /

que pasaban jodiendo todo el día."


Diplomatic farewells or "Pour Prendre Congé"...

Last Friday was a bitter-sweet occasion. A farewell dinner-party for a colleague who is leaving. The awareness of the quick turnover of the personal landscape that surrounds you when you're an expat is always a bit sad. But we are glad and joyful for our departing friend who is always in tremendous spirits, awaiting the new sceneries an challenges.
Anyway, one cannot be blue or moody for a long time when a superb patriotic stew with real gourmet flair was on offer. A "court-bouillon" ( http://www.recettes-et-terroirs.com/recette_detail-22-2066.html ) was introduced in the recipe with obvious merits. The toasts were up to the expectations. Everybody left the imposing building (portrayed above) in good spirits.
( I remember with some nostalgia those parties that were organized by Their Excellencies for my own departures. The first in imposing Belgravia, black-tie stuff and short speech, as demanded by local tradition. The second in a warm Holy Land night, wearing a linen suit in a wonderful outdoors dinner-party with an exchange of really warm friendly toasts. The third, a rather more discrete, blazer-using, supper with glasses raised for mutual health.
If that progression continues I'll have to dinner alone next time, with an open shirt, keeping silent... :) )

Andrei Platonovitch Platonov

Haven’t read him but it seems he was the New Great Russian Writer

Andreï Platonov

When dinner engagements half-slice a long-weekend what should you do? Risk anyway the engorged autopistas? Or, rather more sensibly, dive into the backlog of books to read? I choose the latter. Quite productive long weekend on that sense, I must say. A fully russky interlude. Nina Berberova’s “Alexandre Blok Et Son Temps” (it looks he never did it to his love-object of eight hundred (!) poems eight hundred, even though he married the Muse of his “To a Beatiful Lady”…); Andreï Makine’s “La Femme Qui Attendait” (about the myth/gold standard of the “Absolute Faithfulness” in a woman..) and “Loin de Byzance”, collected essays by Joseph Brodsky (a must read if you like “Piter” (St. Petersbourg) and what that liquid, classical palace waterfronts have done to Russian poetry and to Ms. Akhmatova, in particular). These essays deserve a full blogtext but I’ll stick to just one point. Brodsky says that the only true successor of Doestoevsky in terms of greatness is Andreï Platonov, whom, I must confess, I’ve never read a line of.
I took the step to essemessing an acquaintance of mine, a Russian writer with whom I’ve spend some great talk-drink epiphanies in both Moscow and Paris, to ask him his opinion. He confirmed the judgement on Platonov’s greatness.

So, let’s do some amazonedotcoming, and get to Platonov. What are we waiting for?

Carl von Linné

End game of a difficult collector's deal?

Goliath, the Rastro antiquarian some of my dubitative readers might remember from a previous post ( on Albertus Seba, March the 3rd) came to my flat in the Barrio de Salamanca area for a kind of final discussion on whether the deal would go on or not.

One of the points of contention, the Vampire-bat, was overcome quite easily, I rush to inform everybody out there. He looks glorious in his flying mode.

Unfortunately I cannot say the same about the Chameleon. Goliath says he has a personal interest, linked to a private detail in his life, in the colour-changing reptile (now in the un-changeable grey-bluish tone of every biological object immersed in formaldehyde for more than a century). Pity...

But there's more. The Armadillo too won't be included in the items for sale . How can I persuade this greedy collector not to keep the best stuff for himself?

There's more in life than possessing a stuffed armadillo or a formol-fixed chameleon, you say? Well, each blogger has his own idiosyncrasies. And remember, always protect diversity, even in the blogging world.