Thursday, April 28, 2005

D. Fadrique Enriquez de Ribera, Marquis of Tarifa

A Greek-Roman & Al~Andaluz cocktail. The best of both worlds ?

The 'Casa de Pilatos' in Seville.

( For what the Deutsches Archaelogisiches Institut is doing there please go to

You might remember that a couple of weeks ago I high-speed train-traveled to Seville for BigJo's birthday party. My eventual readers will be kindly asked to re-read what I've posted about that party in this very blog under "Pepe Luiz Vazquez", the torero.

In the few spare time before a beauty late siesta needed for a party starting at midnight I strolled in the familiar territory of the Barrio de Santa Cruz. Nothing quite compares to those narrow streets in a warm low-tide tourist season Spring afternoon when the air is saturated with orange flower fragrance and the calmness of total silence prevails. And that miraculous low decibel level was a fact, thanks to twenty two athletes from R.Madrid.C.F. and Barcelona.F.C. performing at that very same time in every possible TV screen.

If one likes garden statuary, slightly decadent museum atmospheres where Greek or Roman statues or fragments are in non-selfconscious display are much better than frenchyfancy formal gardens. The Rothschild Museum in Jerusalem or the Greek-Roman Museum in Alexandria are warmer friends than the palatial wonders of Tsarskoye Selo (Ekaterinaya's included), for instance. If one likes patios and enclosed gardens the very top, nobody will argue against it, are the Al~Andaluz related gardens. Either the real Moorish thing in the Generalife (Alhambra, Granada) or the 15 to 16th centuries "fusion" western-granadine architecture you can see in Seville and all over Andalucia.

To have Greek-Roman classical statues in an Mudejar context is slightly anachronistic and it might be look as an odd mix but, like creative contemporary cuisine, it works surprisingly well. One might even be tempted to think that the Marquis of Tarifa, who brought the statues from his voyage to Jerusalem in 1519 and build the Alhambra-like palace, might have been the most civilized man ever.

( This post is dedicated to Madame de Tourvel, with whom I first shared the marvels of the "Casa de Pilatos")

A. E. Housman

Faustian joke...

Housman's dilemma. Through Stoppard, playing with Time again, the poet-professor's Old Self is having a chance to set some things straight with his Oxford University student's Young Self.

(Children , think of it! What if the one you will become in your post-adolescent future could visit you in your present times and illuminate your choices? )

Pierre Louÿs

Rouge et Noir
The best kept secret in this town is the after-office happy hour on Wednesdays at Santa Engracia 24 (in the corner with Españoleto) named after the pen-name of Monsieur Marie-Henri Beyle. Went there with the Garden Biker who's still recovering from the only truly trendy form of self-abuse (a ski accident, that is). Nice warm dwellings. Pompeii-Blood red walls, very good neo-tapas nibblings and good looking high spirits in abundance. Golden-Young clever girls, including a NewAge-ish looking intellectual, dressed in black, with stunning eyes who is studying the works of Pierre Louÿs ( at the Complutense. Louÿs wrote about the essential human experiences of both carressing and kissing. "L'Amour humain ne se distingue du rut stupide des animaux que par deux fonctions divines: la caresse et le baiser".
Can you really find yourself gin&tonicking at the heart of Imperial Spain, 28º C outside, evoking André Gide's friend? Yes, it can happen. At the "Stendhal".

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Tom Stoppard II

I swear it's the last time I bother my audience with anything related to the best living playwriter. But It would be a pity if hypothetical readers of this blog got the impression that Stoppard is in a way reducible to Arcadia.

I have a short list of my favourite plays from Stoppard, which I utterly implore my children not to miss a chance to see it whenever the opportunity arises:

  • - "Arcadia" - classical vs. Romantic landscape, "classical" /scientific viewpoint vs. "romantic" /humanities approach. As Tom himself said: the play is about the contrast between the classical temperament ("those who have particular respect for logic, geometry and pattern") and the romantic temperament "those with a much more spontaneous, unstructured communion with nature"). Newtonian physics vs Chaos Theory framing Love, "the attraction that Newton left out".
  • - "The Invention of Love" - classical ancient poetry and "in the old days" ' repression of emotions vs. Romantic, and erotically engaged, life of a contemporary poet. Around Housman (and Wilde a bit) , Classical Scholarship and Romantic Poetry;
  • - "Travesties" - starring Lenin and James Joyce. Revolutionary vs. artistic life projects. "If you can't be an artist you have to be a revolutionary. Or is it the way around?"
  • - "The Coast of Utopia" trilogy - starring Bakunin, Herzen and Turgeniev, and dealing with "classical" revolutionaries, like ordinary "Communards", with romantic-anarchist ones, like Bakunin, and with former believers in revolution but still artists, like Turgeniev.

    It’s the IQ versus Emotional Intelligence debate all over again, plus the Left/Right political shaping and the weight we are prepared to give to Art and to the pursuit of Love in our lives. In all these plays you get closer to that major seismic fault-line in our own divided Faustian-driven personalities. Are we to see to world through revolution-friendly eyes or through art-leaning eyes? Equipped with a cerebral, rational "classical" mind, potential scientists of our existential project, or rather with "romantic", emotions-driven, a-scientific ammunition?

Science/Knowledge,Art/Sensorial Experience, Love/God (Extrasensorial Experience...) and Revolution/Socio-Politics are the Four cardinal points we all have to be aware of in plotting our own stand. Those Stoppard plays are a brilliant short course on that mapping we all have to do for ourselves. (Goodness me, I end up elucubrating about the same stuff as the lectures on the model of "The Personality in Situation" by the distinguished voice-impaired Professor of Psychiatry during my own Etinrcadiaego-like University years!)

Nicolas Poussin

"Et in Arcadia Ego" by Nicolas Poussin.

Even in Arcadia there am I ..

(The basics about this painting are the shepherds (in Arcadia, the bucolic paradise of Classical Greece), the tomb with a legend "Et in Arcadia Ego" and the skull (= Death) on the side of the monument.You can find more about it by googling "Poussin + Arcadia" or use this link: )

Youthful readers of my own DNA have protested that I'm becoming boring and unreadable and using the f-word on top of it all! Besides they could not get the "Et in Arcadia Ego" point.

For their benefit, and with my apologies for those familiar with that quote, I will add a few words. "Et in Arcadia Ego" is most famous for being the legend in the Poussin painting shown up there where you have the symbolical presence of the Death in a garden-of-Eden type of landscape.

There are two translations for that legend, the "quick one", formally erroneous, and another one most Latinists agree with. (Stoppard puts the 'ignoramus' Lady Croom using the "false" translation but our love couple - Septimus and Thomasina, the to-die-for gorgeous Emma Fielding in that first NT production - know better their Latin).

The "easy" version is "Here I am in Arcadia", and usually is used in the context of a nostalgic recollection of one's golden youth years (as such the first chapter/book of Waugh's "Brideshead Revisited" is christened). While the "serious" and correct translation has a totally different meaning when one remembers that the Death is present at the scene: "Even in Arcadia, there am I!" Here, you do understand then that it's not the idyllic perfection that it's been stressed but the somewhat less rose-tainted glass view that even in the near perfect beauty some darkness is lurking. As Giovanni Belloni, Poussin's first biographer, put it, in 1641: "... death occurs in the very midst of delight".

I was trying to be too clever by 3/4, I half-humbly confess, when I used "Et in Arcadia Ego" in the context of orgasmic "death" (la petite mort, as the French say) that erupts in an otherwise Arcadian perfect love-making landscape.

Jane Alexander

Jane 3 jpeg.JPG

( It looks I have been able to post pictures again.. Yeees!! )

anthropological Art meets Cabinet of Curiosities

This is Jane Alexander's "African Adventure (1999-2000)", a recent installation at a Dusseldorf gallery.

Tom Stoppard's Arcadia

Pastoral, bucholic landscape... Classical temperament..

The Queen of Green Prunes decided to comment but the software failed us both miserably. Here's the lost comment, fortunately recovered via a different electronic channel:

" You win, I forgive him. Coincidentally, "Shakespeare in Love" is the movie I hate. You got me curious so I'll have to reread a few plays I have at home.What exactly is a "cluster of sexual mating"? I kind of agree more with Erica Jong's view of a perfect fuck; the only downside is that it doesn't give us enough time to go through the, as you very well put it, "learning curve regarding each other's bodies and sexual languages". Your perfect fuck is much more of a perfect love making.And why does a "orgasmic final experience" have to be penetrative? I suppose that's a typical male view."

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Tom Stoppard

Make love not sex or

Et in Arcadia Ego

It would only be a question of time for Stoppard to pop up in this blog. And not because of his Oscar-winning film script for “Shakespeare in Love”. In fact, the most significant epiphany in my life, with a clarity of recollection that is similar to other people’s “where-were-you-when –Kennedy-was-shot?” took place on Friday 16 April 1993. In the Lyttelton Theatre, at the NT (The Royal National Theatre), London, around 10 pm. (I’ll call my own bluff: I have in front of my eyes the ticket for Stalls, row R seat 17, for a performance of “Arcadia” who had opened 3 days earlier).

“Arcadia” is the foremost example of the precise opposite of where cultural entertainment is been taking us in the last decade. It’s not ready-to-swallow stuff, like junk baby-food for prime-time TV viewers, and to fully savour the theatrical meal you have to be something of a gourmet. As in real life Gastronomy, beyond the pedantry and slightly intimidating plate description you end up with a personal experience that exceeds everything you ever get from just plain good food. As was put by one of the contributors to a book I read yesterday, the “cultured and culturally driven” theatre of Stoppard “will not work for slackers. Just how specialized, then is Stoppard’s audience? Look around you the next time you go to the theatre; then decide for yourself whether or not it is full of intelligentsia (not necessarily effete), the fellow Stoppardian time travellers we recognize in ourselves." (Enoch Brater’s “Tom Stoppard’s Brit/lit/crit” in ‘The Cambridge Companion to Tom Stoppard, Edited by Katherine E. Kelly’, 2001).

“Time travellers” is the critical operational concept here, for Arcadia ends up with past and present occupying the same space simultaneously. Two different sets of characters who have been living two centuries apart share for one waltzing last scene the same dance floor, seamlessly. That moving and exalting tour de force was the whamming wow!-ing moment, around 10pm in a London spring evening, I was referring to in the beginning of this post.

You have the same room in the garden front of Sidley Park, a large country house in Derbyshire, and the plot progression is alternately set in two radically different time-frames - 1809-1812 and in the present day. You do get the usual back and fro treatment, with flashback and flash-forward narrative techniques we are all quite used to. The key point though is that intertwining of the two periods (with information travelling both ways) actually culminate in both separate (epochal) plots having their resolution “simultaneously” (but two hundred years apart) in the same tri-dimensional space. (I stress the three dimensions because the stunning effect would not work in a flat screen or a movie cinema). For those brief moments, having suspended the usual belief in reality, and accepting the characters/actors as being “for real”, you are forced into a non-spacetime based reality. Time is bent and in front of the mesmerized viewer’s eyes unfolds the Newtonian “impossibility” of two separate space-time events occurring at the same moment, in that very same stage room “shared” by two centuries of difference.
Now, when a writer plays with people, directing his characters' lives towards the point he masterly ordains to, one says he’s acting as God. But when he successfully plays with Time itself, he’s no longer acting as, he becomes, in a way, God Himself.
Its probably unfair and not too clever to reduce a complex and superbly crafted play to that climactic last scene, but once you witness it you can’t help to think that the previous two and something hours are a kind of extended foreplay to the penetrative orgasmic final experience.

That, on cue, brings me to the controversial subject of the quote perfect fuck unquote. What’s the “perfect f...k” in my book? Well, it’s a very rare event that can (or cannot) take place in one’s love/sexual life around the 4th of 5th cluster of sexual mating with the partner you are in love with. It never happens in the beginning of a love affair, there’s always a learning curve regarding each other’s bodies and sexual languages. Later on, when the passionate romantic love shine has faded, it will be too late. It will have to happen while both are still madly in love with each other (this simultaneity is rather less frequent than soap-operas tend to stress) but sufficiently detached from the object of their love to be more aware and reactive to the other’s whims and pleasure tricks. If under these relative constraints aleatory circumstances produce the tumescence/wetness of their respective lifetimes, and you embark in a “parcours sans fautes” both technically and in emotional response, you find yourself in your own personal PF. You are not having sex, remember, you are making love, and you will reap the just reward, in the emotional shape of a all powerful, high-Richter scale earth-trembling unforgettable orgasmic “death”. Et in Arcadia Ego. PF indeed.

Arcadia is Theatre’s “perfect fuck”.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Baron Roman von Ungern-Sternberg

Symbolical Babylon?

Last weekend was a multimedia feast on the romantic figure of Baron Ungern von Sternberg. Why multimedia? Because I read a book, I read a comics book and I saw a film where either a leading or leading/supporting role was played by the White baron.

The book was Leonid Yuzeforitch's "Le Baron Ungern, Khan des Steppes" (bought in a recent foray into the Salon du Livre, at Porte Versailles, dedicated this year to Russian Literature). The 'bande déssinée' was Hugo Pratt's "Corte sconta detta arcana" (the original Milano Libri Edizioni big-sized first coloured version) more familiar under the name "Corto Maltese en Sibérie". The film is the animated version of the Siberian adventure "Corto Maltese: La Cour Secrète des Arcanes" .

The Baron was the last white White general to be captured - and executed on 17 September 1921- by the Reds, during the Siberian final spasm of anti-Bolshevik resistance, or counter-revolutionary activity, depending on the viewpoint. (The last White, but non-white, General to be captured was Grigory Mikhailovitch Semenov, in 1945, in the very same Manchuria from where he had vanished in September 1921, running for his emígré life).
I'm told there are other biographies available, including Rhys Hughes' "The Brutal Buddha: Baron von Ungern-Sternberg", all very much based on a little book published in the 20s by a political journalist who shared some weeks in Urga with the mad Baron and on the 'compte rendu' of his interrogation by the Soviets, shortly before the firing squad. Corto Maltese interaction with the Baron in the original comics book is a bit unfair, stressing the madness of the character, while in the animated film version we have an improved viewpoint, more sympathetic to the tragic dimension and the sheer size of the pressures he had to undergo.
Well worth spending sometime with. (There is even a freakish and perhaps scientifically relevant detail to explain his behaviour: "after the execution his brain was removed for study by doctors and it was disclosed that his left lobe, now considered the hemisphere of identity, existed only as a shriveled root". I'm quoting from a google quick search here:
Corto is of course a classic and a must in Western romantic adventure literature(Pratt is up there with Jack London or Neville Shute or Emilio Salgari, although in a different medium) but Sternberg deserves some research too, particularly in today's time of civilizational clash (for post-Huntington puppies) or "Alliance of Civilizations" (to use ZP's preferred foreign policy mantra).
When asked by his Bolshevik interrogators what he though of Communism the Baron's answer was typically vague and symbolical: "The International was conceived three thousand times before Christ in Babylon". Possibly a reference to the internationalist Babel Tower but also a tangencial quoting of the biblical reference to Babylon, as a symbol of the satanic power: "the house of the demons and where all malign spirits had converged" (Apocalypse St. John, XVIII, 2). That reminds me a big banner in an anti-globalization demonstration I witnessed on the eve of the European Council of Gotheborg: "Bush is Babylon". When one thinks that a couple of years later President Bush directed the wrath of the US armies to modern times Babylon one wonders... Are all those big-picture conflicts to be apprehended at the level of symbols and near-mythical struggles? Just like Ungern saw it.

José Antonio Primo de Rivera

Political Hooliganism?

Last Sunday, the very same day Basque citizens were walking to the polling stations, I decided to indulge in my addiction to voyeurism of mass politics. Near home,in Colon. ( A square in Madrid where the National flag has such enormous proportions that a laidback patriot from a neighbouring country at ease with his own national identity immediately becomes suspicious. A bit like the National flags I saw in Christmas cakes in a Scandinavian country, which acquired its independence very recently (not even a century) from its neighbour. To be fair the profusion of football related National flags in my own country destroys my argument on satisfyingly performing old identities not needing to proclaim their national virility.) Well, talking about Colon and red and yellow flags there were lots of them when I arrived at the head of the demonstration the ‘Falange’ was organizing. One feels terribly self-conscious when not sharing the political views of a reasonably-sized mass of activists, a bit like being in the wrong stand in a football stadium with a blue shirt amongst a sea of red supporters. But I was eager, as usual, to share the indigenous reality instead of reading about it.

One is always armed with an associations-producing brain and this time, confronting the mediocre attendance and the sense of witnessing the rituals of a bunch of political has-beens, I saw an inner snapshot of a October Revolution Day demonstration by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, sorry, Russian Federation, in the Red Square, two years ago. The sense of good old times long passed by, the bright-eyed faith witnessed in the remaining believers.. But then I started to realize that something was quite different.. The average age of the demonstrators, that’s it. KPRF die-harders who demonstrated in Red Square were mainly old timers, pensioners not believing their historical bad luck, while here there was a lot of young blood. Many straightforward fascistic upper-class trendyboys but some, heavily built and muscular, working class types too. Skinheads, a couple of them, but mostly the average football hooligan type before the two dozen beer cans.

The flags of the ‘Falange’ or the ones with a Celtic cross have the obvious marketing appeal of striking colours and sharp graphic design. Just like the red flags in Krasnaya Ploshad. And the ‘Falange’ salute, with stretched arm and overstretched fingers, gives to the saluter the same adrenalin-inducing muscular tension one suspects on a Bolchevik, with his over-clawed fist in a 90º flexed, biceps contracted, right arm. The physiology of mass politics, indeed. Something physical, primitive even, that full-blows out of proportions whenever the numbers reach the big heights (which was not the case here). Sound is another brain stimulant so the intoxication by slogans and chants are part of the ritual, of course, and, at the risk of repeating myself, takes one again to football hooliganism stuff. At some point a large section of the demonstration even started to jump in the air in unison like one can see in a soccer stadium, signifying, quite plainly, that those who don’t jump belong to the “enemy” (the rival F.C.).

The slogans this time? “Fran-co, Fran-co” (“Sta-line, Sta-line, I never heard in Moscow…) . “Arriba España!” (Long Live the Soviet Union! Yes, I heard that). “Zapatero Hijo de Puta” (No daring to insult the political leader in Russia, not even today. Putin was above KPRF sloganising). “Rojo que veo, rojo que ‘papeo’” . (Who are the ogres of the Communist imagery? The Oligarchs?).

All this sincere roaring about the unity of Spain, I can intellectually understand. I don’t believe the demonstration would have more than a residual fifty or one hundred sad losers if it was not for that acute physical shared sense that actual risk of fragmentation of Spain is real. A big banner displayed a bilingual slogan “ ESPANA EUSKAL HERRIRIK GABE EZ DA ESPAINA” “ESPANA SIN VASCONIA NO ES ESPAÑA”. The priority enemy were the centrifugal forces of autonomic Basque country (“Ibarretxe en escabeche!” proposed a culinary solution to end with the leader of the Basque nationalists) and autonomic Cataluña (“El Eje del Mal, Zapatero y Maragall” gave a new twist to the ‘Axis of Evil’ concept.).

Quite an instructive morning it was. At the very same time, in a different corner of this City, four thousand people were demonstrating against the Monarchy and for the instauration of the III Republic, chanting “Los Borbones, a los tiburones”!

Friday, April 15, 2005

Jim Hanson

I'm desperate. I cannot make the "#$&(&%$$$%! Hello+Picassa2 tandem work. So, no pictures. No matter how many times I've tried to virtually push the "publish picture" button, the frustrating end result is still the same. Nothing, rien, nada! How can I post something on the overwhelming beauty of a Sevillan Moorish garden that functions as open air Greek-Roman museum (the Casa de Pilatos ) if the $%&/&%&%# photo refuses to follow the path ordered by the carefully double-checked instructions? In my bolshy mind, no pictures no blog. Somehow the software must give way..

Sebastiao Jose de Carvalho e Mello

Corporate Boardroom or Locarno Suite?

Thanks to the generosity of its wealthier member, the Trade Chamber's Junta Executiva met yesterday in the superb premises of a true corporate boardroom. Hmmm.. The sharp styled leather chairs.. the flatscreen monitors that pop out of the surface of the rare wood, mahogany-like, ovaloid big table.. the large canvasses of contemporary art in both walls and corridors.. the latest generation sleek IT gizmos that actually work.. the pleasant smell of serious money... One might might be blasé of grand staterooms (in the occasional visit to Heads of State's or Prime-Ministerial ceremonial offices), or familiarized with velvety impressive Foreign Offices' rooms in inumerous capitals, including the Locarno Suite at the FCO or our own Necessidades' Palacio Velho - but a boardroom of an Industrialist still has an exotic charm to a professional diplomat.

( That brings me to some speculative mind strolling. No one is ever happy with his own high achievements. Successful businessmen long to be recognized by their potential in statecraft and even when billionaires still play with the idea of a career in High Politics (Uncle Silvio is a good example). Successful Grand Ambassadors (meaning by that those professionals who end up having jobs in Washington, Paris, London and the like) envy the Big Entrepreneurs, particularly their yearly operating and investment budgets. Successful leading politicians use their hard-way acquired skills to conceal their envy for Grand Ambassadors' lifestyle. Grand Ambassadors, deep down, would like to be treated as Minor Royalty. Minor Royalty love to be taken as Royalty, period. Royalty would just like to be looked at as Royalty, if at all possible, please.)

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Pavel Strogonoff

The Princess and the Cook

State Secrets are just nothing when compared to Cookbook Family Secrets. Smiling guests trying to seduce hostesses in the desperate attempt to obtain a recipe invariably get deliberately truncated versions. Unscrupulous amateur gourmets engaging in bribery or blackmail to get hold of famous kitchen formula from unfortunate family cooks fail too, as a key detail is always left out.
I happen to know who indeed knows the true recipe of Beef Stroganoff. I have no reasons not to believe that claim.

A complex chain of events. A writer in Moscow tells the departing diplomat that he must absolutely get in touch in his new post with a White Russian Countess that carries the allure of Old Russia like no one. In a talk in Paris the writer confirms that a preliminary contact was established. A reply to an electronic reminder at last carries the necessary phone number. On the eve of an At Home on Fools'Day, Russkaya invites, in Russian, the said Countess who happened not to speak Russian and not to be a Countess afterall ( a Princess, in fact) to honour the birthdaying diplomat with her presence. A telephone conversation a couple of days after the party happens to take place in the middle of the Russkaya's cooking exertions. A cook stuff discussion follows. And so the Princess recalls a personal conversation with a cook who worked with the Strogonoffs themselves.

The Family Cook at the Strogonoffs: "We have kept the recipe in the Family since the times of Count Pavel Strogonoff. One day he had more than one hundred fifty people to supper instead of the usual eighty or so and some last minute solution had to be found for although there was always plenty of food in reserve this time the challenge was formidable . Mushrooms in the estate there were plenty. Cream no problem either. The cutting of the beef would be the key to the miracle of the multiplication of maincourses. The chief cook of Graf Pavel was good, really good. The experiment went really well. I can't tell you about the recipe more than you know already, Princess. But come tomorrow morning, very early, to the kitchen and you can watch me prepare it. "

The cool and glamorous dressed Lady, who has charmed all fool's day guests with her beauty and grace from older, gentler times, claims she is now in possession of the Secret of the Strogonoff Beef. Who are we to doubt the Princess?

Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Von Schelling

Schelling occupied the thoughts of some early Russian thinkers. Early? Quite a relativistic concept. Early painting in Italy is Cimabue or Giotto. Early thinking in Russia, many centuries later, is Odoevsky or Chaadaev. All this philosophy-imbued daydreaming brings me to Plato and, inevitably Socrates.

The Athenian agora was transposed, for a little more than one hour, to the staterooms of an ambassadorial residence. We are all in a circle, carefully avoiding the trap of indulging in too many spherical cod snacks. The whiff of Power is present in those rooms. Not philosophical power carried through by a charismatic speculative mind, but political power that anoints the holder of the scepter. A scepter acquired by winning a legitimate democratic battle, one quickly adds.

Power had descended at that man ( like an aura in a portrait by Giotto or Cimabue). No German idealism here but a stronger metaphysical stuff.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Pepe Luiz Vazquez

A couple of days ago I have a call from BigJo. (As some people are Anglo-Portuguese or Spanish-Italian, BigJo is a Cascais-Marbellan who knows more about Madrid life at its rarefied heights than most). He invites me to his birthday party: "In Seville, midnight at a "caseta" at number so and so of Calle Pepe Luiz Vazquez". Now, some clarification is needed at this point. What we are talking about here is the Feria de Sevilla and the tradition of having a kind of non-humanitarian Tent City for the duration of the Fair. Each house-like tent is called a "caseta", and mostly are in bright coloured stripes, like beach huts in good-old times in off-Venice Lido. Almost a small city of "casetas", aligned side by side, on neatly drawn streets which all have names of famous "toreros". So fast forward to when I pay the cab-driver at the entrance of the Feria (which will only be officially opened the following day) and to the moment my excellent-bred, elegant as whipets, Italian shoes feel for the first time the un-velvety touch of the ochre-dust non-asphalt calles.
Couple of steps later I find the street I wanted, having turned correctly to the right at the intersection with calle Juan Belmonte. (Pepe Luiz Vazquez is a famous "Matador" and well deserves the accolade from the Fair organizers. I'll photoblog accordingly very soon ). At the linoleum flap that serves as door, BigJo receives his guests. Crooners of the Sevillan sub-species of pop song performance are tuning their instruments. Jerez and bubbly from Mstrs. Moët & Co starts to flow. One tries to reply to socialite-smiles from both sides of the Portugal-Spain virtual Shengen border. Flamenco musicians from both the Hola! and the gipsy varieties would play later on. Difficult to tell who's who, in national ID terms, and sometimes you end up talking to a compatriot in the "wrong" language.
Most of the insiders are going to stay in Seville for the week. The Feria times, a local brand to be added to the list of non-negotiable holiday prospects. (snowy slopes for ski aficionados / southern hemisphere palm trees warmness during northern European winter / traditional Summer with sea,sun,sex and sangria). The "casetas" resemble beach-huts, the drinking and dancing atmosphere is of the summer holidays type, only the water is missing. Diving in the bull-ring an equivalent, perhaps?
(A former President of a Big Football Club tells amazing and hilarious behind-the-scenes stories. I think the best was the one involving a superstitious manager/coach and the late night unearthing of some voodooish chickens buried behind the goal posts. Off-record rules prevent me to go further, but it was a good surrealistic story, ending in a disastrous football result that seems to deny the efficiency of mambo jumbo in the premier league.)

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Karol Wojtyla

We take for granted that much of the facts surrounding the Papacy are known to everybody, albeit in different degrees of detail, but in fact in Orthodox post-Soviet Russia things don't quite happen like that. The Russkaya had only a faint idea of white smoke versus black smoke and plead mercy to my accusations of inexcusable ignorance, on the grounds that information related to religion and Catholicism was strictly filtered in her Moscow youth. Inevitably we discussed the fact that the "exceptionality" of Russia manifested itself this time by being one of the few countries that the Holy Father, while eager to do it, was not able to visit.

Flashback to my Moscow years. A meeting with a very intelligent priest of the Foreign Relations department of the Office of the Primate of the Orthodox Church, with short beard, impeccable acute mind, who had traveled, "incognito", he told me, to Fatima. He talked about an agenda for negotiations and a list of issues to be discussed and cleared by the two Churches before a possible visit by John Paul II could be considered. "Moscow" was accusing "Rome" of trying to "poach" Russians that belonged to the 'canonical territory' of the Russian Orthodox Church. Life was not easy, I remember, for my fellow diplomats from the Holy See.

That brings me to an article I read today by Jaroslav Pelikan, a renowned author on Christian tradition ( former Professor of History at Yale, and a Lutheran who joined the Orthodox Church at age 74). He makes the point that although even in supposedly thorny doctrinaire points the distance between the Oriental and Western Churches is not that great, and despite the willingness and personal engagement of John Paul II, progress in achieving unity had frustrating results. Pelikan almost implies that an window of opportunity has closed, and the chance represented by a Slav Pope was lost.

Maybe it's the other way around. It might be easier for a non-Slav successor of John Paul II to achieve things that are related to the Russian Orthodox Church. At least to visit Moscow..

Damien Hirst

One tries to stick to personality-related posts but sometimes it's just not possible. Particularly after such an enormous gap in blogging activity. I have nevertheless from embryonic notes to almost final drafts of posts on Anton Pavlovitch Tchekov/Mikhail Vassilievitch Platonov (related to a recent Comédie Française performance of "Platonov" ), on Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais (inspired by my first contact with a non-operatic marriage of Figaro), on Viktor Erofeev (prompted by a couple of drinks with the Russian writer on the bar of George V) and on Damien Hirst (who says his shark in formaldehyde needs a bit of love and attention). One must never explain the blogging silence nor apologize for blog laziness? I know, I know..