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

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.

Friday, November 11, 2005

António Lobo Antunes

"Escrevo sempre a morte de Mandrake"...

Comics High Literature Posted by Picasa

Last night António Lobo Antunes was in town. Carrying effortlessly his ironical and slightly presumptuous persona. I can't go into it now.( Besides the evening was just beginning. After the literary apéritif, the main course was "Hoy: El Diario de Adan Y Eva" at the the Teatro Maria Victoria and the postres (bar-hopping) were good too. )

Uncle António said that too many writers describe very serious literary influences - and in doing so plainly lying - when the main impact in fact in their creative lives might have been the adventurous comics, the glorious trash (my word not his) of youthful readership. Like Flash Gordon or Mandrake, Master Lobo-Antunes pointed it out.

Another recurrent theme of his free-association conscience-stream lecture yesterday at the Biblioteca Nacional was (of course) Death. (From the one you witness in the African last colonial spasms of a declining Empire to the un-Godly death of a child with terminal leukemia).

Pressed upon what were his books about he said in that inimitable disdainful but simultaneously childish tone: "I keep writing the death of Mandrake".

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Monday, November 07, 2005

Peter Gabriel

goldfrapp in concert Posted by Picasa

Allison Goldfrapp

Tell me what live performances you attend and I'll tell who you are...

Ms. Goldfrapp, live at the Divino last Friday Posted by Picasa

What was a Porsche-driven and Loewe and Etro-dressed blogger of yours doing in an almost suburban Rock venue off Ermida del Campo, the honourable Reader might ask himself in disbelief?

Allison Goldfrapp is the simple answer. Yes, I had to struggle with roadworks that turn on-bord computer GPS instructions worthless.. yes, I had to endure sub-standard solomillo in a inner-city mall .. yes, I had to queue for almost one hour to get to the ticket booth.. But some democratic inconveniences have sometimes to be experienced if one wants to keep surfing...
The concert opened with "Utopia" from her inaugural CD "Felt Mountain" (2000) and it was pure bliss. Super-brain indeed..

It's a strange day
No colours or shapes
No sound in my head
I forget who I am
When I'm with you
There's no reason
There's no sense
I'm not supposed
To feel
I forget who I am
I forget
Fascist baby
Utopia, utopia
My dog needs new ears
Make his eyes
See forever
Make him live
Like me
Again and again
Fascist baby
Utopia, utopia
I'm wired to the world
That's how I know everything
I'm superbrain
That's how they made me
Fascist baby
Utopia, utopia

An unexpected beneficial side-effect of the rock concert was the considerable lowering of late- morning-sickness of a pregnant concert-goer who was standing near our group. As a matter of fact the passive smoking of 2-delta-tetra-hydro-cannabinol near the stage was staggering. The anti-nausea effects of the chemical molecule of grass are well reported in clinical medicine, and I dare say that a "porro" in the vicinity can help in unsuspected ways..

Yasunari Kawabata

Cloister of Toledo's Cathedral (5.11.2005) Posted by Picasa


Cloister of Toledo's Cathedral ( 5.11.2005) Posted by Picasa

Charles Moore

Right on target..

With due apologies for copyright infringement...

As the Honourable Reader is well aware of one of the weekly pleasures of this blogger of yours is the enjoyment of the latest copy of "The Spectator". The best magazine around, famous for its healthy elitist attitude and unapologetically conservative line but with a slightly anarco-liberal philosophy like open-source software. Apart from the exceedingly high quality of the writing and some delicious columns (both great fun and not dumbed down like most of journalism nowadays) the "Spec" is famous for its illustrations and cartoons.
The cartoon depicted above made many of my close friends laugh. From the great expectations of a writer-in-progress to the more mundane and frivolous activities as a blogger: a picture is worth a thousand paragraphs...

Posted by Picasa

Friday, November 04, 2005


" la giovin principiante " ..

prime-time girl Posted by Picasa

The Honourable Reader, undoubtedly a Opera-lover in his spare time, might remember the famous "1003 in Spain" scene from Don Giovanni, when Leporello was spilling the beans to Elvira:
ogni villa, ogni borgo, ogni paese
è testimon di sue donnesche imprese.
Madamina, il catalogo è questo
Delle belle che amò il padron mio;
un catalogo egli è che ho fatt'io;
Osservate, leggete con me.
In Italia seicento e quaranta;
In Almagna duecento e trentuna;
Cento in Francia, in Turchia novantuna;
Ma in Ispagna son già mille e tre.
V'han fra queste contadine,
Cameriere, cittadine,
V'han contesse, baronesse,
Marchesine, principesse.
E v'han donne d'ogni grado,
D'ogni forma, d'ogni età .
Nella bionda egli ha l'usanza
Di lodar la gentilezza,
Nella bruna la costanza,
Nella bianca la dolcezza.
Vuol d'inverno la grassotta,
Vuol d'estate la magrotta;
È la grande maestosa,
La piccina e ognor vezzosa.
Delle vecchie fa conquista
Pel piacer di porle in lista;
Sua passion predominante
È la giovin principiante.
Non si picca - se sia ricca,
Se sia brutta, se sia bella;
Purché porti la gonnella,
Voi sapete quel che fa.
The Halloween week-end at The Count's country-house offered us various plots and sub-plots going on simultaneously. This blogger of yours would be extremely happy to recall it and to turn into a chronicle at least the highlights of the most recent gathering of the Praia Tribe. Hélas! the combined devastating effects of incipient "Alzheymer" and post-hangover syndrome are to be reckoned with. One of the undercurrent narratives, though, I do remember alright.. it was like a remake of Bertolluci's "Stealing Beauty", that amazingly poetical elegy of the Young Woman (played by Liv Tiller) at the once-in-a-life-time supreme point of her physicality.. Lonesome wolves us, with Giovanni-like honourable careers, could only witness in awe the freshness of skin, body and mind and mumble about how Time had past. Tabu involved apart ("Thou shell not look with lubricious eyes the dauhgter of a Friend!"), there was a pungent nostalgic tone colouring the rooms, a bit like "The Secret Garden" for adults with no illusions left. The tender flesh of prime-time girls were no longer for their yellowish wobbling teeth.. but the celebration of Youth was sincere and good-humoured.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Dorothea von Lieven

Desperate Diplomatic Housewives...

Dorothea von Lieven, née Beckendorff Posted by Picasa

If the Honourable Reader is not a misogynist and believes in the power accumulated by emancipated women, John Charmley's "The Princess and the Politicians" is a small gem. The main thesis of this historian-biographer of Princess Dorothea is a serious one. Grand Ladies in their early XIX century Salons who happened to be insiders of the Society circles where political leaders had their informal get-togethers were themselves political actors. Dorothea was the wife of the Russian Ambassador to Britain, Prince von Lieven. They managed to stay in London for twenty years plus, during which many crucial events for the understanding of European Nation-States relationships took place. She begun as a classical Ambassadress, that is as an hostess and a charmer, but she quickly graduated to a husband and wife act of co-analysts of European diplomatic moves, as seen from the eyes of Castlereaghs, Cannings, Greys and Palmerstons. Apparently she went to bed with most of them, and with Prince Metternich too. She ended up being a formidable political operator, mingling without shame or reserve with British internal politics, almost, at some point, a Minister-maker. The slight chance for intelligent women to exercise influence - in those times when they had no political rights, such as to vote and to be elected to Parliament - was is to play with their charm and the trump card of their sexual availability? Let's not be petty bourgeois here and read flirtations, affaires du coeur and the occasional night out of the marital bed with our puritanical tabloid-selling glasses. These are distorting lenses indeed. But what about today? Did "sex, intrigue and diplomacy" went on until modern times? Or since women can now exert raw power without intermediaries that dimension is irrelevant? What about names that spring to mind on both sides of the debate?Eleanore Roosevelt? Golda? Margarets (Trudeau andThatcher)? The Italian Mrs. Gandhi? Angie Merkel?

For students of Imperiology Charmley's book is good reading too. Fascinating to witness those last times (from the defeat of Napoleon to the crude expansionist drive of the Tsarist armies to the East and South) when British and Russian Empires were on the same side of the geopolitical fence. But if you are serious about understanding Empires you have to read different stuff.

Not really a coincidence that a descendant of Russian and British Imperialists, and a Lieven himself, has written a really incisive book on what makes Empires these enormously fascinating political animals. I can recommend Prof. Dominic Lieven's "Empire" as a kind of serious full-bodied red wine one likes to drink after the "Princess" more frivolous black-pinot bubbly stuff has put you in the right mood.

Luis Silva Dias

LSD, aka " The Parakeet "

Bird Flu Blues Posted by Picasa

I warned Him. The portrait was too good not be on the net in less than 48 hours. After some digital manipulation, His photo, taken during a separate Halloween private party that took place during this last LongWeekend-long party at the Count's, is about to enrich the photo-gallery of this blog. I'm moving the mouse-guided arrow to the "Publish Post" orange interactive square. One-click and the kite will fly.. That's it..