Friday, July 29, 2005

Juan Ponce de Léon

Will Miami be the New Madrid?...

Miami-centric Caribe Posted by Picasa

Where lies the cultural traveling heart of an Hispano-American?In the Caribe itself? Longing for the labour market of real-estate bubbling Spain, and therefore Madrid?Dreaming about South Beach condos, instead?

The more I know and talk with people from the Northerner part of South America, particularly when you come across Ibero-Americans from Colombia, Venezuela or with Cuban DNA, the more I realize how Miami is in everybody's minds. From post-Castrist Takeover shelter to a kind of safe haven for earnings at home (to the Bogotá elite, for instance), Miami has become the magnet for the Caribbean elites. In a way, it has become a kind of Metropolis of a new post-imperial system.

To that two further interesting points should be added. On one hand, Miami is becoming more and more Hispanic" , and the rise of importance of the Spanish language there is phenomenal; on the other hand, the migrant fluxes to Spain from Latin American countries (Bolivia, Ecuador and Colombia, in particular) have been awesome (we are talking many hundreds of thousands here). It's almost like a re-arranging of puzzle pieces.

Will what started as a foothold on the (North)American Eldorado end up being the Jewel in the Crown of a new global Spanish-speaking system? (The only Western system that can rival culturally the "Anglo-Saxon" one, as some point out? ).

For local colour, I try to get material from the Miami Correspondent of this blog of yours. What? - the Honorable Reader finds himself exclaiming with sincere admiration - this blogger of yours has a network of correspondents? Well, always interested in improving the service provided to the Honourable Reader, I've decided to enroll some local expertise whenever appropriate. Tosca, whom I had the pleasure to meet in a cigarral off-Toledo some partytime ago ( alluded to in a blogtext entitled Domenikos Theotokopoulos) has been spending in South Beach her well-deserved holidays from a hard working life as a partridge-broker (if you like shooting and want a 'private finca stay and plenty of partridges downed' package, she's the girl to contact). What she tells me about the northamericanization of southernamericans living in Florida is a matter of concern, including that the decibel levels of children behavior and the obese-inducing average size of meals are not the most pleasant features of modern Miami (by the way, the postcard above depicts the yachting area of Miami in Arcadian good old times). There is of course the "new money" dimension to take into account, and some of the local gossip might not be high-cultured.
Tosca, correspondent in Miami, writes: “ Desde que llegué me ha pasado de todo pero te iré contando poco a poco ya que si no, tendrí­a que escribir horas.(...) Estoy impresionada de la gente aquí­ en Miami que es gente en general con poca educación pero con mucho dinero (…). Hay de todo pero sobre todo (…) y lo único que piensan es en el dinero y en las cosas materiales. Las conversaciones giran en torno alo que uno posee: mi carro de 70.000 dólares, mi casa de 2 millones de dólares, mi reloj de 10.000, mi mujer de 100.000 dólares, mi perro de tal marca, enano, reducido y que le ha costado un riñón para que no haga ruido ni ladre, por tanto no es ni un perro pero lo importante es lo que le costó“.

But that does not really matter in the long-term. The relevant issues will become clearer with time. What one wants to know is what kind of cultural fusion meal will result in the end from the dynamism of the US of A mixed with Caribbean energy a la Spanish language sauce ? Madrid, watch out..

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Michael Collins

Taking the bomb out of "the bomb and the ballot-box" strategy...

The British Crown and the Irish Harp
Posted by Picasa
IRA declared the end of its double-faced strategy. No more "arguing" with bombs and guns, as from 17.00 CET the fight for an United Ireland will have to be carried out by strictly non-violent democratic means. Good. (I wonder what Michael Collins, the Irish Nationalist, would have thought of all this?)

Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera

The "Flag of Hispanidade" is X-rated political stuff... Posted by Picasa

This blogger of yours was doing some research on Spanish History, circa Civil War times, and came across a flourished bit of nationalistic prose that one could translate as " the Christian and Imperial heroical sense of the joyous days of our Greatness". Now, how would post-modern text exegesis deal with that?
(In Spanish it reads like this: "(...) sentido heroico cristiano y imperial de los jubilosos dias de nuestra grandeza." )

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Iosip Deribas / D. José de Ribas

Adventurers, then and now...

The Opera House in Odessa Posted by Picasa

When you least expect there's the irruption of History into your dinner table, just as you are about to enjoy a braised solomillo in an asador in Las Rozas. You try to keep your attention focused, a difficult job because you pretend you are just listening to Don Marchal while at the same time you are in fact keeping an eye on Clairedelune's reactions to the Sea Adventurer's tales. He has just popped up the name of Odessa ("Adessa" as it's pronounced in both Russian and Ukrainian), and that immediately conjures a vortex of images, names, fragments of memory trash. White Guards.. Denikin.. the flight to Constantinople.. the General Prince Gregory Potemkine ("Patiômkin", in Russian) .. Turkish-Russian Wars.. the mutiny aboard Battleship Potemkine.. WWII battles.. my own holidays in Crimea. I gulp the chilled red Rioja, taste the rare steak, check Clairedelune's smile towards Don Marchal but my mind keeps wandering..
I listen with amazement. Don José de Ribas, a Spaniard, founded Odessa?? (The Honourable Reader can find this text somewhat cramped between the portrait of D. José and a contemporaryary photo of a building in Deribasovaskaya Street, Odessa, Ukraine). I heard it well. It was indeed De Ribas, an Adventurer at the service of Catherine II who commanded in 14 September 1789 the Imperial forces who stormed the fortress of Hadjibey. Born in Naples (which had then a Spanish Sovereign), with Catalan aristocratic blood from his father's side and Irish DNA from his mother's, the talented officer was a soldier of fortune, one of the many adventurers pooled by the Empress. His name had been russified in the meantime to Iosip Deribas. In 1795 Hadjibey (or Chadsbey) became Odessa.
Who are the new Adventurers? The Guinness Book of Record-seekers? The opium-consuming Westerners of the High Himalayas who dropped out at the apogee of the Hippy movement? The sleepless Hackers who enter the Pentagon super-computers? The Jihadists who travel to the Afghan-Pakistan Passes for quasi-military training? A manager of a rent-a-soldier business who departs for Africa to start a coup? I think not.
Don Marchal, though, is an Adventurer allright. For years now he has been engaged in sea travel in a rather peculiar way, climaxing in crossing the Atlantic Ocean in his water scooter, and he wants to travel now from De Ribas' Barcelona to Deribasov's Odessa. (I could see that his physical charisma, his exploits, and maybe his implicit rarefied connections, was damaging the solidity of the pseudo-indifference mask of the listening ladies. Just as Ribas stormed the Hadjibey fortress was the Don storming Clairedelune's defences? Now, the Honourable Reader might detect a iota of jealousy here, and he might not be wrong. Alfa males never take it easily that some other fellow is using words that induce tachycardya in beautifully-eyed females. Nothing personal. Something has always to be done to adjust the male hierarchy around the dinner table).
I realized then that a Blogger can also be an Adventurer..

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Samuel P. Huntington

Clash of Civilizations?

Moscow, summer 2004 Posted by Picasa

In the current times it's difficult to poke intellectual fun and throw verbal projectiles (as I used to do) at Professor Samuel Huntington's much derided article in "Foreign Affairs" in 1963. Our only hope is there's still some tolerance and sense of humour out there. Last year I went to a magazine annual party in Moscow where one of the rock bands (with partially Central Asian roots) had the guitar-player depicted in the photo as their lead singer. Can't remember her name but she was good.

ps. In case you want to refresh your memory about Uncle Samuel's near apocalyptic scenario:

The Clash of Civilizations?
Samuel P. Huntington
From Foreign Affairs, Summer 1993
Article preview: first 500 of 9,176 words total.

Summary: World politics is entering a new phase, in which the great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of international conflict will be cultural. Civilizations-the highest cultural groupings of people-are differentiated from each other by religion, history, language and tradition. These divisions are deep and increasing in importance. From Yugoslavia to the Middle East to Central Asia, the fault lines of civilizations are the battle lines of the future. In this emerging era of cultural conflict the United States must forge alliances with similar cultures and spread its values wherever possible. With alien civilizations the West must be accommodating if possible, but confrontational if necessary. In the final analysis, however, all civilizations will have to learn to tolerate each other.


World politics is entering a new phase, and intellectuals have not hesitated to proliferate visions of what it will be-the end of history, the return of traditional rivalries between nation states, and the decline of the nation state from the conflicting pulls of tribalism and globalism, among others. Each of these visions catches aspects of the emerging reality. Yet they all miss a crucial, indeed a central, aspect of what global politics is likely to be in the coming years.
It is my hypothesis that the fundamental source of conflict in this new world will not be primarily ideological or primarily economic. The great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural. Nation states will remain the most powerful actors in world affairs, but the principal conflicts of global politics will occur between nations and groups of different civilizations. The clash of civilizations will dominate global politics. The fault lines between civilizations will be the battle lines of the future. (...)

Ilya Ilich Oblomov

The attraction of a life staying forever in bed...

Posted by Picasa Pictures from Mikhalkov's film plus P.A. Fedotov’s “The Aristocrat at Breakfast”
(Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow)

True heroes tend to be universal, the Honourable Reader might be tempted to agree, but some are more universal than others. The central character of Ivan Aleksandrovitch Goncharov’s one and only masterpiece is the universal archetype for all the selfless non-selfish selves that refuse the modern rat race. Although in their anti-rationalist and anti-modern outlook they are most at ease in XIX century Russia, in fact they persist among ourselves, even in this day and age. The crucial point is, are Oblomovs a good or a bad thing?

Famously, in Goncharov’s novel, the hero needs around one hundred pages just to get out of bed, while this blogger of yours took almost two full days in bed to muster the vital energy to reach for the keyboard.

Oblomov is the laziest hero of Russian literature and has been analysed from every possible approach. I include him in the all-time Top 5 of Russian Male Literary Characters, with Dostoevsky’s Stavrogin (in The Devils); Aliosha Karamazov (in The Bros.); Andrey Bolkonsky (in War and Peace) and Raskolnikov (in Crime and Punishment). While most of them are men of action, almost like role models for existentialist case-studies, who accept the responsibility for their whereabouts and actively design their future with their own hands, Oblomov just is unable to do so.

That dilemma (inaction vs. doing-something-at least) has been occupying me for quite some time, more recently when it was pointed out to me that a French video artist, Martin Le Chevalier, has created an interactive video inspired in “Oblomov”. In that video art game the player (any member of the public) tries to spur the dressing gown-dressed sleeping hero into action (go to the on-line edition of the Moscow Times and look for Anna Malpas’s article on July 8, or use this: ). By clicking the mouse the player gets a short burst of action. The hero, interpreted by actor Olivier Bardin, can get up, or smoke a cigarette, or drink wine or make a phone call – but ultimately he will always return to the original sleeping position.

Ilya Ilyich is one of the most sympathetic characters of world literature, a “beautiful soul” if ever there was one, in and outside Russia. At the same time he is a tragic figure, exasperating most readers for his failure to make the final effort to be happy (that is, to follow through the reciprocated love feelings with Olga Sergeyevna).

Agustina Bessa-Luís, a formidable woman writer of my country’s literature, wrote (in 1981) that it was with Oblomov, as a little girl lying in bed with a cold, that she learned “the Russian affection, a kind of Hay Fever without the sneezing”, which she went on to love for the rest of her life.

Auntie Agustina cannot find enough good words to say about the magnificent Nikita Mikhalkov’s film adaptation .(“ Some Days in the Life of I.I. Oblomov”, has been published in DVD with 12 possible subtitles languages by the Russian Cinema Council; and Oleg Tabakov’s performance will never allow you to have any other visual association with the slothful aristocrat.) For Bessa-Luís there is "a kind of cosmic Christology in his way of being, in his self-detachment, which is also direct participation, at a deep level, without selfish desire".

Beautiful things are always sad, defends Agustina (and every Russian folk would shake his head in agreement), and “Oblomov” is in the end a very sad story, full of outstanding comical effects (including the immortal serf-servant Zakhar), but sad. And doubly tragically, I think, because of both the dénouement and because of the arguments that anti-modernization thinkers carved, greedily, from the masterpiece. Agustina even goes as far as talking of “affective intelligence, the climate of domesticity in all its persuasion, almost the nihilist foundation of the human soul” and that this nihilism, “so criticized by some, represents a dédoublement of the universal soul with which we all identify with”.

It’s like we try to extract from “Oblomov” some near-philosophical essay on the meaning of life, and Lesley Chamberlain in “Motherland, a Philosophical History of Russia” has made just that. For her, Goncharov illustrated the fundamental Russian choice of non-selfhood as the basis of ideal community, poking superior fun at the futility of individualistic competitiveness. Oblomov, “in a sleepy labouring towards meaning”, embodied consubstantial, ‘integral’ knowledge for souls rather than aggressive-divisive knowledge for individuals. He is totally unconcerned with Hegel’s essential feature of Western individualism – the difference between individual consciousness and what exists outside it – and lives in an almost pre-Cartesian world, with a bond with nature that is both undynamic and unproblematic. The peaceful way in which Oblomov absorbed knowledge placed him at the centre of an emotional and epistemological idyll. Because Oblomov wanted power neither over nature neither other men, his political existence followed a parallel pacific, non-Western pattern.

The counter-Oblomovian character in the book, a half-German named Stolz (‘pride’ in German) is the active and ambitious Hegelian hero, a mild version of the man-God, the individual in Russian nineteenth-century philosophical mythology whose desire for self-fulfilment was a bid to take God’s place. Goncharov makes his achievement – Western-style happiness (including marrying Olga) as reward for hard work – morally unconvincing.

Oblomov does not engage with the world through reason and could therefore not see modern competitive Western society as the right goal for a good Russia.

In a way, the post-Hegelian voluntarist approaches of what should an individual seek to do in a society committed to progress (including Leninist tragic version) are all “real ugly world” journeys that do not sustain comparison with an Oblomovian un-selfish idyllic communal arcadia. In that respect, reading the book, seeing the film, engaging with what’s all about, is more important now, in the new global selfish competitive village than it was for the Russian intelligentsia.

The personal belief of this blogger of yours is that neo-Oblomovian temptations to go back to good old times (pre-globalisation, welfare models), including in the name of a environment-friendly concept of harnessing individualistic aspirations, will indeed be very strong. But Stolz-like individual hard self-fulfilment awakening in the peoples of Asia will not allow the indulgence of Western laziness.

Of course we are all, at some point, fed up, with this forward hectic pace of our individual lives and would like, so to speak, “to stay in bed”.

Harold Nicholson

The poison of diplomatic nomadism...

Sissinghurst garden-rooms Posted by Picasa

By chance, wanting to christen this blog with the name of a diplomat, for reasons the Honourable Reader will have no difficulty in finding out, if only he perseveres in reading this text for another couple of paragraphs, I just made the discovery that one of the first posts abroad of Harold Nicholson was Madrid.

Now, contrary to popular belief among fellow diplocrats, Harold Nicholson, Esq. should not be taken as the epitome of the professional diplomat. He wrote a very relevant book on this blogger of yours particular line of trade, right. He remains a celebrity in Britain and beyond thanks largely to his wife, Vita Sackville-West, a minor author whose reputation the Feminist-led brigade has blown out of her true merit, that’s a fact. And there’s the garden, of course, at Sissinghurst, which is in fact their most accomplished achievement (when I visited it, many summers ago, I was very impressed with the near-architectural logic of the garden design, which I had never encountered until then).

In his master work of concision “The Pure Diplomacy”, Ambassador Calvet de Magalhães unfortunately gives exaggerated importance to Uncle Harold’s views (as published in “Diplomacy”). One should read the chapter ‘Harold Nicholson and Vita Sackville-West Revisited’ in David Cannadine’s superb book “Aspects of Aristocracy – Grandeur and Decline in Modern Britain” to get a more balanced view on the celebrity couple. (Their sexual-orientation-wise rather unorthodox marriage arrangement, although not unheard of, before and thereafter, in the British Isles, probably enhanced their appeal to the voyeuristic modern masses).

He had a thing for literature himself, and like many other young diplomats he spent his spare time writing. Nicholson pointed out in his “The Evolution of Diplomatic Method” that, in the 1920’s, “ our Foreign Service… the man of letters has always been regarded with bewildered, although quite friendly, disdain”

The main point on which I disqualify his contribution to the “art and science” of diplomacy, although he was a fellow diplocrat himself, and a son of one as that, is that he resigned Her Britannic Majesty’s Foreign Service before he had attained any Ambassadorial job. Would you give credit to an “inside” book on the skills required for Government from someone who didn’t manage to get himself a ministerial post in the Cabinet? Or about the management of media who never had the Senior Editorship of a newspaper or its equivalent in other media?

Well, I have largely surpassed the allotted space expected for this particular blogtext and I haven’t got yet managed to lay my little story for today.

I have to stick to my promise to Pinkita that details about our grilled chuleton in the Sierra would not be in any way reported in this blogspot domain. But the deal, as long as I’m aware do not cover the brief encounter this blogger of yours had with her DNA-donor, a retired diplomat (as a to-the-finish-line Ambassador, mind you, not as a quitter on lap three like Mr Nicholson). We exchanged some phrases on previous places, the near-canine traditional choreographic sniffing of our respective butts among professional diplocrats. We agreed on the compulsory addiction to move on that is the trademark of our profession. Than the Ambassador evoked a typical triangular story involving a departing Ambassador, a Foreign Minister’s decision to shuffle Heads of Mission around and the Nº2 of the just mentioned Ambassador. The scene takes invariably place in Her Excellency’s grand office in the Chancery, and the young diplomat’s role is something between Witness and Apostle. The Ambassador was happy where he had been living and was asked to move to a different spot, maybe somehow a bit in advance regarding usual length of stay. Having been conceded the rare leeway to give either a positive or a negative answer to the new designation, the Ambassador is respectfully asked by his young colleague if he had made up his mind. The Ambassador answers: “It’s stronger than me, my dear fellow. I’ve already started reading and making inquiries about the new city. Now that there is a different place to go to, this very city, where I’ve been quite happy, has somehow lost its gloss. Ah! This will to move... this need to change…it’s a poison you know… a poison”.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Carlos Falco, Marques de Grinon

A Midsummer Night's DreamDinner...

How it felt entering the Rincon... Posted by Picasa

Ms. Seachestnut took another rabbit out of her hat and hops! there we were on the N-V, direction Extremadura, to reach the finca before the sunset. This time the invitation was neither for a Snowhite and the Three pigglets garden-party, nor for a black-tie Sultan and His Eighteen Friends birthdayparty. This time a small committee, with as many people as main roles on the cast of a Shakespeare comedy.. As we entered the gates, the sunset light was at its golden glorious best, and the tree-lined lane was taking us to enchanted valdepusian territory..

The Honourable Host was very generous with his warmth in people relations, with his produce (all foodstuff at dinner was homegrown, so to speak, with the exception of the red peppers granted from a neighbour) and with the wines which made him, among other reasons, a very famous person (VFP). During the aperitif, taken under strict gender-segregation, a white oak-vanilla pleasantly tasting white was enjoyed, accompanying the traditional quick check of portfolio and M&A news. As we sat at table, adorned with elves and fairies that looked like little friends of Titania, the red wines keep coming. First a Syrah/Grenache which was a bright young thing, then the well versed, emeritus even, PetitVerdot/Syrah/CabSauv, the flagship itself that has made our Honorable Host the darling of the wine press (incidentally, in the land of the press "de corazon", the wine magazines are the only media you want yourself to be mentioned in ..)

The Honourable Hostess, who presided with consummated sense of timing to the garden festivities, including making the full moon appear between a huge cypress and the corner of the stone house at the exact moment as we were engaging in the pudding, had one additional talent to add to her already filled bag. She speaks an almost accent-free Portuguese which, as the Honourable Reader might understand, made her win several brownie-points from this blogger of yours.

All the guests were equally charming, but maybe the FatwaSister was more equally charming than the others. Her husband, working in risk capital ventures, spotted her once and went on to marry her just ten months later. As another guest commented: "A typical risk capital banker's decision.. Tremendous risks incurred but awesome rewards if everything goes well". (I hope promises of ravioli al parmigiano will not be forgotten...)

Fuelled by the excellency of the wines, the conversation was lively, and rather Sex&the City-related at some point. At soup time, the well-known impotency-inducing side-effects of lettuce soup were mentioned and the Hostess rushed to stress she had excluded that recipe from her kitchen to avoid sensitivities in these matters. Many stories were of course wine-related, even the dog is wine-related, for Goodness sake! "Alo", strolling around in the lawn, is a "bodeguero andaluz" , an autochthonous race that descends from the terriers that Sherry-oriented Englishmen brought with them two centuries ago, at the start of their migration to Jerez. The Sex&C.-addicts immediately swore that Charlotte had a bodeguero during several episodes of Season 3 but I have my doubts. Every wine-grower should have as his pet dog a member of this race whose name means an habitué of a wine-cellar...

The stories told around the table allowed me to pursue my linguistic studies in Spanish slang. I was introduced to the term used to describe a very daring outfit that leaves almost nothing to a male's already vivid imagination. It's called a "posseme", the imperative of the verb "to possess", and therefore un-literally translatable as a "fuck-me dress". Another semantic discussion involved the difference between a "quarentona" and a "quarentañera". The English language is not subtle enough to deal with those differences between the quality of life of those born between 1957 and 1964, fortysomething all but some more forty-ish than others. All ladies want to be remembered, in the legend of their fourth decade, as "quarentaneras", of course...

The perfect wine-related concluding remark, arrived, with theatrical timing accuracy, as the dinner was coming to its end, via Short Message Service to the FatwaSister's mobile phone. I cannot evn attempt to translate it. A wordplay between the names of two very famous wine regions (Penedes and Rioja) and the words "Pene" (which means "penis") and "Rijo" ("stiff") , it went like this: "Tu que tanto entiendes de vinos, sabes que relaciòn hay entre un Penedes y un Rioja? .. En que cuanto màs pene des màs rioja se te pone."

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Nero Wolf

Overweight among orchids...

the real thing Posted by Picasa

When was the first time you heard about Montenegro? Balkan Wars? Wrong. Nero Wolfe crime novels? Right. In Rex Stout's books, the famously intelligent and famously overweight crime-solver was born in Montenegro. And what else do you remember about Nero Wolfe? His patronizing of Mr. Archibald Goodwyn, his assistant? Wrong. His after-lunch afternoons spent with his orchids? Absolutely right. Is this blogtext named after Wolfe because of Montenegro, crime-fiction or weighwatcher concerns? Triply wrong. Because of orchids, then? Absolutely right again.

The pretext for the seafood-soup & codfish-with-cream dinner was the recently acquisition of the orchid-like installation (untitled, 100 x 130cm) by Ms Mate Gonzalez who honoured us all with her presence. At some point, around the circular table where eight orchids were having to bear the air-con generated winds, someone introduced the theme "what's the spark for a relationship?". Apart from the consensual "sense of humour" as a key feature, I regret to say that, although firmly cowed into making positive contributions to the discussion, the lady-guests declined to be specific. Even Letuce, an helicopter pilot who fantasizes about five chicos (she refused to be more specific in this point too) failed to contribute.

Now, then, if this blogger of yours entertains at home should it be a legitimate subject-matter for a blogtext, the Honourable Reader might ask with due property. Will it not cross some consensual red-line? I would encourage all my last night guests to have blogs of their own and to have a go at how they spent a few hours among orchids. In the absence of the expected surge in blog-building I will have then to go on and write about it myself.
The characters have already made some guest-star appearance in this blog, including Clavellita, with flowery sandals that stretched the limits of dinner-partying dress code, who talked at lenght about the virtues of silence and meditation (was I talking too much?).
As always in Madrid all the ideas of punctuality do not apply. A 9.30 invitation for dinner, with expected soup on the table at 10 something and pudding in that very same day, turns into a 22.45 arrival of the last guest, with dinner starting after 11 and cheesecake with raspberries already on the following day's earlier hours .
Around the time some of us were thinking eagerly about bedtime - to sleep, I rush to say - we had a late batch of guests arriving, fresh from a dinner in Salamanca (neighborhood, not city) . Among them a Colombian actress with german-like features with green XL eyes, Marcellina, with whom I enjoyed reviving my Bogota to Cartagena adventurous trip.
Either because of the relative saltiness of the soup, or the sodium content of codfish or the drying properties of a persistent air-conditioning, water with ice was received with almost Saahra-crossing exultation.
Is water the new whisky?..

Robert Parker

Wine tasting can give you ideas...

The Hounorable Reader will have to bear this blogger of yours' self-indulgence now and then. I had recently an extremely enjoyable almost-full moon dinner - to be blogged about later - at the heart of the Dominio de Valdepusa, DOC and somehow the tasting and rating of wines and women got intermingled in my mischievous mind. The Host, a formidable enological figure has a lower-your-voice-when-you-speak-of-him evident respect for Mr Robert Parker Junior, the Pope/Guru/Imam/Rabbi of Wine Tasting worldwide. One can only understand too well those respectful winemakers, if Uncle Bob says "94" rather than "96" it's a large percentage chunk of their market value that suffers. What turned Parker's views so awesomely powerful was his comprehensive attempt to turn qualitative appraisal of wines into quantitative factoring. Not that he was a pioneer on that effort but his USA-born system surely became the standard against which all the English and French wine critics barked against in vain. I wonder if we could make the same quality to quantity quantum leap in what regards women? Not MissWorld stuff, I rush to add, not measurements or boob size, but something closer to Parker's system.

In his famous rating system, "general colour and appearance" gets up to 5 points, "aroma and bouquet" up to 15, "flavour and finish" up to 20 and "overall quality level of potential for further evolution and improvement-aging" up to 10 points. Parker starts by giving 50 points to each wine (so that the final scale looks like a 100 points scale). Let's assume we are "tasting" a woman: general appearance, allure, flavour and finish, overall potential in a process analogue to what Uncle Bob masterly performs.

In the end, we could get close to his own rating (to see more go to ) by judiciously replacing the word "wine" with the word "woman".

It would then be something like this:

  • 96-100 An extraordinary woman of profound and complex character displaying all the attributes expected of a classic woman of its variety. Women of this caliber are worth a special effort to find, purchase, and consume.

    90-95 An outstanding woman of exceptional complexity and character. In short, these are terrific women.

    80-89 A barely above average to very good woman displaying various degrees of finesse and flavor as well as character with no noticeable flaws.

    70-79 An average woman with little distinction except that it is a soundly made. In essence, a straightforward, innocuous woman.

    60-69 A below average woman containing noticeable deficiencies (...) (Parker goes on saying: such as excessive acidity and/or tannin, an absence of flavor, or possibly dirty aromas or flavors.)

Wouldn't that change the way we look at "general appearance" , in the case of Miss Rachel Hurd-Wood incredible lips or Ms Nicole Kidman's near-perfect-white skin? At the "allure" displayed by Ms Katherine Hepburn? At the so-to-speak "flavour and finnish" of Ms. Liv Tyler? At the "overall potential for further evolution" of Ms. Juliette Binoche?

In the same way Parker allowed New World Cabernet Sauvignons from Napa to be properly compared to Old Worlds from the Bordeaux region, a system like that applied to women would liberate us all from the dictatorship of the modeling and film worlds. A Colombian "96" would smash all the eightysomething plus that invade Cannes every year around Festival times. A Andalusian "92" would embarrass Swedish "91s"..
The only point that remains to be answered is, of course, who would be the new Robert Parker?

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Marie Arnet

Zauberflöting in the Plaza de Oriente...

The most divine operatic music, Freemason Uncle Wolfgang at his very soon-to-die best; a refreshingly provocative mise en scène by the slightly over-the-sell-by-date archi-provocative La Fura dels Baus; a pleasant springish summer evening at the Teatro Real; and a charming and convincing "Pamina", Swedish-born Marie Arnet (I shouted "Brava" thrice which is a first to me. The Honourable Reader can find Ms. Arnet's photo just to the left of this very paragraph). What more can one ask?

Clavellita would have liked to know how was the performance of "The Magic Flute" that her serious summer suntanning activities prevented her from attending. Just for the apotheotic finale when the stage was stripped of the last scenic walls and one could see, through the gigantic glass doors, the square opposite the West facade of the Opera, it was well worth being there. Like one hundred and something meters of uninterrupted vista, from my butaca in row 5 on the stalls, right through the whole gigantic naked stage, the equally free-of-props backstage, then through the glass surface, to the calle in the end, with people in the little square oblivious to the "Hail the Two who triumphed!" that the Chorus has just sung.

Of the main concepts of the scenic project by Jaume Plensa and the La Fura dels Baus some were real winners, some just so-and-so. Visually of course there were on stage awesome things going on. Like in the very first performance in Vienna, in 1791, all the contemporary "special-effects" were on use. Pamina suspended by ropes, almost at second-floor eights, immense video projections, the Queen of the Night advancing towards us in a telescopic robot that transposed the orchestra, the cutting in salami slices of the stage cavernous space thanks to gigantic inflatable mattresses, you name it. The onirical inside the brain/neural approach was aptly and consistently thought through; the "playstation2"-like imagery for the costumes and the lead-roles was a big much needed face-lifting to a two-hundred year old opera ( The idea of having the Three Boys with remote-control devices with antennas and joy-sticks was VERY effective, transmitting the concept of Command&Control that modernizes the old ideas of puppets and strings). Only Papageno, in red leather glam rock outfit, was not credible at all, failing on the count that the Rousseauesque Good Savage important aspect of his character was lost. Besides, with the sexual-orientation that a costume like this normally implies his longings for a Papagena is just not convincing.

What totally failed was the substitution of the original dialogue parts (in German) by recorded and videoprojected text/poems, written by a poet whose name I don't want to advertise here. The texts in themselves, supposedly resuming the philosophy of the dialogues it replaces, are interesting and have impact (' Al griterio/ responde con silencio,/al vértigo/ con lentitud y calma') , but what is it doing there, for God's sake? In an Opera already with serious problems of fluidity (no "D.Giovanni" here) it makes it even more like a collage of sketches (which, in the end, it never is, thanks to the unifying musical language of Herr Mozart.)

(In the interval, the Muse-on-Duty looked extactic at the sunset in the Royal Palace, as seen from the grandiloquent café-bar in the Sixth Floor. Even the flute of Cava tasted, magically, as Champagne, thanks to the scenery and our Mozart-filled hearts. ).

I would suggest to the Honourable Reader, as I've done before with other key magnum masterpieces, to "collect" a couple of zauberflötes durig His/Her lifetime, and never to pass an opportunity to add a curious new item, as a Fura's contribution would have undoubtedly not fail to be. (That's why the Psycoanalytical Angel proved disappointing in her setting of priorities. For her line of work, an extra-day in the family finca should not have been worth loosing all the psycho-babble extremely interesting speculation that was on offer in this particular magicflute).

In the end you kind of finish a complex puzzle. Orthodox productions (like in Covent Garden or in São Carlos); miniaturist (like I saw in Moscow, with only a dozen instruments!); CD and DVD enjoyment (where you can have a triple A Diva singing the Queen of the Night's Second Act Aria at an affordable price); movie items ( the bit in Milos Forman's "Amadeus" is tremendous and, of course, Bergman's "The Magic Flute" cannot be missed) ; or daring épater-le-bourgeois scenic projects like this FDBaus; enormously rich musically (like in Salzburg) or flat and boring (like, hélas, it can also happen) - it does not really matter. In the end, you get a little nearer to the core of the masterpiece, and after that Iniciatic Journey of your own, you will find yourself a little bit closer to the Light...

Monday, July 18, 2005

Wong Kar Wai

"2046' " + "In the Mood For Love" = Lost True Love Handbook

Faye Wong, Zhang Ziyi, Maggie Cheung, Gong Li...
The most romantic faces are now in Asia.. Posted by Picasa

Mr Kar Wai, the Hong Kong film director that plays in the same league of people like Fellini, or Wells or Truffaut, declared, some time ago, that ideally one should see "2046" first , and only afterwards "In the Mood for Love" in order to understand the full package in the correct order.

Thanks to plasma-screen and DVD-reading technologies that's what I've done this weekend. Time and time again, I cannot stress too many times that there's a "critical mass" regarding information about any given subject, which by attaining it, like speeding towards the sound barrier, gives you a totally different grasp of that subject. It's like total immersion techniques in language learning versus pitiful slow longterm efforts.

So "2046" it was, and "In the Mood for Love" (plus, afterwards, all the bonus material of the DVD special editions).

Are we still entitled to have secrets?

WKW explains his "2046" project: "There is a need in all of us to have to hide or store certain memories, thoughts, impulses, hopes and dreams. These are part of our lives that we can't resolve or best not cast upon but at the same time we are afraid to jettison them. For some, this is a physical place; for others, it is a mental space, and for a few it is neither". On a recent interview, Kar-Wai says all his secrets are in his films, he does not need, as his characters do, to find a hole on a tree, a hole on a stone wall in Ankhor Vat, or two female fingers shaping a circle, to whisper the secret they want to share.

Personal secrets are the spice and blood of one's journals. Can one have both a journal (with secrets) and a partner? Or a partner (say, a wife) should in principle be allowed to read one's journal? Was Tolstoy right in showing her fiancée his diaries just before marriage? (She was horrified and couldn't believe the sexual dissaray of his husband-to-be). Was John Lennon right in asking Yoko Ono for a list of all her previous lovers? Is it acceptable behaviour for individuals engaged in serious relationships to maintain a territory of un-shared thoughts or writings? Their "secrets"? On the other hand, do we really have an urge to spill the beans sooner or later? Somehow, after the time spent with WKM's films, I think that Art indeed is spilling one's secret beans..

True Love (TL) in space/time...

"Time waits for no one, even for me" . The male leading character in both films, , played by Tony Leung, is a family-man in "In the Mood for Love" ( Chow Mo-Wan) who arrives "too soon" at his True Love discovery. Both her (Maggie Cheung playing Su Lizhen) and himself are not available - both married although both betrayed - and cannot live through their discovery. In "2046", Bai Ling (played by Zhang Ziyi) thinks she has found TL, but it's too late for Chow, now a womaniser who does not want to commit because he assumes his true TL is irretriveably lost somewhere in the past. As the saturated colours, the moodish music and the elegant desperate faces tell us, TL is never to be experienced in the present, being either a dream in the future or a loss in the past. Either too soon or too late. In that sense, a WKW movie is the strict opposite of happy-ending Holywood films, where TL is always rewarded in the final photograms. It's painful of course to be a grown-up..

To change. To move on

About the script outiline of "2046 " the following atempt to describe it is as good as any other: "He was a writer. He thought he wrote about the future but it really was the past. In his novel, a mysterious train left for 2046 every once in a while. Everyone who went there had the same recapture their lost memories. It was said that in 2046, nothing ever changed. Nobody knew for sure if it was true, because nobody who went there had ever come back- except for one. He was there. He chose to leave. He wanted to change."
Do we need to revisit the past time and time again, do we need to whisper/write/film direct our secrets, or would it be better to do something else? To live things as they happen, to avoid secrecy, to display openly your thoughts and feelings.. To have your own blog, perhaps? :)
ps. The best review of "2046" I've read so far is from Ken Lee from Singapore.

Several years in the making and highly anticipated, _2046_ (2004) should pacify director Wong Kar Wai's fans, at least, for its end-of-an-era feel and look. At its core, this is a decidedly (or deceptively) simple movie, in spite of its fractured and non-linear narrative. It tells the tale of an emotionally wrecked man, Chow Mo Wan (played by Tony Leung), a reprised character from Wong's critically acclaimed earlier oeuver, _In the Mood for Love (2000)_, and the many beautiful women he keeps and fails to keep, in a time-space continuance that is laden with sepia-tinted memories: a monologue, if you will, of Chow's torrid love affairs, love spats, and the ensuing heartbreaks resulting, no doubt, from the pangs of a failed liaison Chow is trying to escape. It'd appear that the failed relation with Su Lizhen (Maggie Cheung) in _In the Mood for Love_, who has a "special appearance" in this film, has changed Chow irrevocably, which is key to understanding Chow's troubled soul. But it is not a sequel necessarily, per se, to _In the Mood for Love_. This film can still be watched on its own, though it'd certainly help if you could link moments in _2046_ to the director's earlier works, for it's laden with jumbled continuity (take the character of Lulu, for example, first seen in _Days of Being Wild (1991)_), hidden meanings (read: Neo-Godardian) and other fun stuff, sorta an insider's joke, if you dig such esoteric things. But I digress. And it's been said that this is a culmination of all the previous filmic experience of director Wong (bordering on narcissism); hence its "end-of-an-era" feel and look is duly appreciated and a point well taken.In _2046_, Chow's isn't an easily likable character owing to the frailty and the vagaries of his own personal emotions and peccadilloes, but that makes him only human and real, and his character, believable. Take the following exchange:
Su Lizhen (Gong Li) to Chow Mo Wan (Tony Leung): Do you know my past?Professional gambler Su (she who is of the same name as that of Maggie's character in _In the Mood for Love_) asked Chow, dissonantly, questioning the latter essentially whether there is a future for the both of them, if he cannot forget his past.
And it's for the same reason, or so we're led to believe, that Bai Ling (Zhang Ziyi) is left devastated, as Chow cannot treat her any differently from the scores of other women he's seeing; hence eliciting the following memorable line from Bai which I'm sure speaks to most of us one way or another:
Bai Ling (Zhang Ziyi) to Chow Mo Wan (Tony Leung): You may not like me. But I'll like you all the same.What fools we are made by love. :)
Contrasting Chow as a man who dwells in the past and in need of closure to move on, Tak (Kimura Takuya) isn't ambiguous when it comes to matters of the heart.
Tak (Kimura Takuya) to Wang Jingwen (Faye Wong): I do not know what your answer may be. (I dread to know.) But I need to know.
Here is a man who is not afraid to love and says his love. And he needs to know if his love is unrequited. And in seeking happiness, the message seems to be that there is no other way. Now why does this remind me of all the sorry tales with which we are all-too-familiar with men-who-cannot-commit-or-decide? :)
And so the film is thusly replete with impressions of repeated variations of the same theme: the pointlessness of returning to the past. Which is why we have the following line:
Bai Ling (Zhang Ziyi) to Chow Mo Wan (Tony Leung): Why can't it be like before? (The same reason why nobody returns on the 2046 train, in Chow's sci-fi novel of the same name. Seen in this light, it is also a double-entendre for director Wong: Why can't this film be like the one before in the form of _In the Mood for Love_? Where does he go from here?)
Those familiar with Wong's earlier works will notice his signatures throughout: quick cutting, slow motion, fast motion, freeze frames, black and white, tilt shots, color filters, neon-sign lighting, aided ably by three able cinematographers. Production value of _2046_ is expectedly top-notch. Music by Shigeru Umebayashi is haunting and sets the right mood. Zhang Suping (William Chang Suk Ping) does a wonderful job in creating an enrapturing atmosphere set in the late '60s.How great it is, in an otherwise desolate world of unease, vulnerability, hopelessness, and pathos, we have directors such as Wong to feast our senses. Highly recommended.

Ludwig van Beethoven

The "9th", a cult-classic...

Uncle Ludwig Posted by Picasa

The Plaza Mayor was even more crowded than its usual Friday night, transformed for one evening into an open-air theatre. The stage was big enough for both the symphonic orchestra, in full penguin dress, and the big chorus called for by the 4th Movement of that particular score. The night was tremendously warm, pity those musicians! Apart from the "suits", the local beautiful & famous, in by-invitation-only blue plastic chairs, aparthei-ed from the rest of the seated crowd, the masses out here, outside the barriers, were the ones having the real fun. Standing, with the full no-breeze-whatsoever famous summer Madrid nights, coping with the high temperatures by the usual means. The non-ladywindermeered fans, manipulated with tremendous skill by Wimbledon-standard quick strokes, generated a kind of environment-friendly air conditioning, and with a more poetical bass sound than the usual air-con humming. Around the third Movement the pervasive smell of "Paella", also a traditional feature of the Plaza Mayor, had mercifully subsided. But it was part of the fun too. How many times you have glorious high-culture classical music being processed by your brain in conjunction with fried "gambas" and saffron rice olfactory stimulation? The conditions of silence in the Imperial Austrias' architectural auditorium might not be perfect, but who really cares if a cellos moving part is at some point somewhat mixed with the high-pitched barks of a poor canine spectator being bullied by a bigger dog? Was it a serious distraction when a full tray of lager glasses impacted the stone pavement of the Plaza? Not really, when we are under rock festival rules rather than concert hall's. And this blogger of yours witnessed a real frisson swarming the masses when it became obvious, even to the more remote to XIX century erudite music, that the "Ode to Joy" was imminent.

So, Daniel Barenboim was last Friday in Madrid directing the Berlin Staatskapelle (orchestra and chorus) who played Uncle Ludwig's Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125. I know Barenboim is a great conductor, and I managed to attend his concerts a couple of times (sounds terribly pedantic but it's true, what can one do?), in Paris and in London, and of course he's right there at the top, among the rare cases of an excellent solo performer (as pianist) who turns into an excellent Maestro too - but it was not because of him that I confronted the unforgiving heat . (I'll never forget his comment that to get a second exact same note on the keyboard, that sounds exactly as the first one, requires an added quantum of energy and power in the piano strike. A kind of paradox in physics but then again perceptions are tricky stuff). It would be ridiculous for me to engage in musical reviewing, I'm not qualified for that, but allow me to point out that if you are serious about hearing the "9th" you either go for a prime concert hall with first rate orchestra, singers and director or you have access to a very good (and very expensive) hi-fi platform. So, being in the Plaza Mayor was not about a new interpretation of a familiar opus magnum but about something else..…

The "9th", and the ode "An die Freude" in particular, has not only been trivialized by the EU bureaucratic decision (how strange it does sound when played after National anthems are heard, like in the most recent "Quatorze Juillet" in the French Embassy grounds). It has become a pop-art iconic "cult thing", like the Rock Horror Movie Show, or "Blade Runner", or the Mona Lisa, or the England-Germany World Cup final. We want to build up a collection out of those bits of our auto-biographical journey, when that familiar imagery or soundtrack keep popping up, with a reassuring recurrence. (No "Ninth", for me, will ever surpass the pre-revolutionary concert at the Coliseu dos Recreios, Lisbon, 1974, when I got goose pimples everywhere. A close second was the open-air version in the Gulbenkian gardens, also in Lisbon, near a small lake bursting with full-moon excited frogs.)

In Spanish (or rather Castillian, to be politico-linguistically correct), "Ninth" is "Novena". Like in ecclesiastical jargon, where a "novena" means performing nine times a particular devotion, one should aim at attending , at least, nine "Ninths" in one's lifetime. On that spirit, last Friday at the Plaza Mayor was another successful devotion..…

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Juan Manuel de Urquijo Y Urrutia

Those Sixties Parties are all the fashion now...

Iconic finca Posted by Picasa

The Honourable Reader might be perplexed sometimes by the naming of these blogtexts. With extremely scarce exceptions all are christened with either the name of a personality or of an artist. Even if only very far off related to what I'll write about in the following half a dozen paragraphs, that Name (as if a list of Lloyds' members...) works as a kind of votive god, a paternal figure who will bless the story that follows..

These blogtexts, on the other hand, always begin with a picture. It's not an illustration for an already completed text, but the starting point of the writing process itself. The idea for the blog-of-the-day exists already for sure, normally taking shape as I'm about to turn off the morning shower. That idea, though, will have to find a suitable translation in terms of imagery, so the picture selection and photo-editing step is a crucial one.

I wanted to write about yesterday's Sixties Party who was held in a gloriously beautiful finca, in the outskirts of Madrid. A finca acquired in 1901 by the second Marquis of Urquijo, who's full name you will find as the title of this blogtext. The finca, loaded with History, would have to be the image-hero then, and yesterday's pink-bluish lights that dramatically enhanced the beauty of secular trees would have to be part of it. Easter, the host, birthday boy and scenic director of that fun-tastic party went for professional lighting of prosperous theatre standards. With those pink and silver-blue holophotes, the enclosed gardens of the finca became sets appropriable for Mozart mischievously bucolic Third Acts... An image of that finca and the recalling of those colours was therefore needed, before writing one single world in today's edition of this blog..

This piece of real estate has History, I said. And related indirectly to the mothercountry of this blogger of yours.. For in a very cold morning, on November, 9th 1948, a young boy (less than ten years old) was taken from the Villaverde train station, in Madrid, to this very same finca where I have just finished parking my car. Here ( I think to myself as I put the dinner-jacket belly corset and the jacket itself) a young Prince, who had traveled from Lisbon in the "Lusitania" express train, leaving the Estoril exile of his Father, started the journey into His Majesty status. Here, in this very finca where we are received by greedy paparazzi , by acrobats and somersaulters, eight little boys were expecting the royal highness who would be their companion in a very, very special, purpose-designed, school. A cold day in 48, a near tropical warm night in twenty-o-five.

Back to the glamorous party, in my role of chevalier servant of Ms. Seachestnut, the Galician-Andalucian celebrity thanks to whom I am having access to these very closed, almost endogamous, celebrations of le tout Madrid. The initial drinks, near Marrakshi tents, huge balloons and performing acrobats, when there was still some sunlight and the powerful pink spotlights had transfigured Nature into La Scala stuff, put us all in the right mood. Almost a regiment-size of longdressed fashionistas and black-tiers strolling around the gardens. Then the dinner, with gastronomically-diversified buffet tables, like different stage areas on a Rock-In-Rio for grown ups. Than the blowing of candles from successive normal-sized birthdaycakes presented in a quick cadenza by tiara-wearing Young Ladies, while the orchestra swinged a "Cumpleanos feliz..cumpleanos feliz..." (tatati-ta-ta-ta-ta-- happy-birthday-to-you) . Than the dancing bit itself, mostly, obviously, anglo-american sixties songs, with a twist now and then. I don't know about you, Honourable Reader, but when I'm in black varnished black-tie shoes, I feel I've actually succeed in my dieting proverbial efforts. Like in Michael Powell's film "The Red Shoes" (back to 1948 again!) , when I feel my dear old ball shoes gloving my feet I became a disciple of Mr. Astaire. One day someone might remember me as a "gamberra guaperas bailon", and I will have scored then a diplomatic success of sorts..
I enjoyed meeting one in particular of the eighteen tiara-clad lady friends of Easter that were kind of co-hostesses. A charming Sultan-like idea, which I congratulated the host for. I wish I could have been privy to their preparatory meetings.. Eighteen women on a room, discusssing silk cloth and hairdress style while a poor man is trying on his own to instill some operative efficiency to the discussions..
I collected, as ever, some good anecdotes, not all politica-gaymarriagetimes-ly corrected, I should add.. Some might be told in due e-time... The Honourable Reader will have to be patient, and display some fidelity to this blog.. In the end, it always pays to be faithful...

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Gerald Westminster

Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea: London 2OO5

The navel of the Universe Posted by Picasa
A blog is a blog, while a political column disguised as a cool, trendy diary is a total different animal. I would like blogs to keep their, so to speak, purity. But sometimes it might look callous or plain silly not to speak at all of what's going on in the world out there, around us. Famously, Louis XVI's entry for July 14th in his Journal was: "Rien". A lot has happened in London the other day. Besides I lived there, in the blissful RBK&C, for five happy years.
When I was a Londoner myself, the Provisional Irish Republican Army was still active, and even managed a rocket attack against Whitehall. Later on I lived in Jaffa, at the time bus-deflagrations became part of terror war tactics. More recently, I watched from my Grokholsky pereulok viewpoint the Dubrovka Theater massacre, the Beslan massacre and all the black, sad things that were happening in Chechnya. Tellingly, to deal with terror attacks has been part of the internal scene whenever I lived, for the past twenty years. Including, obviously, where I'm staying now, since everything happening here is, when not directly ETA-related, a kind of grief-work for the 11-M .
My dear London, the only place on Earth where an eccentric with a un-heard of hobby can find plenty of soul mates. The vibrant proof that cultural diversity not only can work but that indeed it mutually reinforces those different cultures. I prefer a sushi bar alongside a Mexican nachos joint and a Alsatian regional restaurant to a fusion Asiapacific choucroute. London is like that, a New York in Old Europe ( Thank the Lord!).
Both the etiological and symptomatic treatments of Islamist Terrorism will have to pursue. Not an easy task, and at times perceived as boring when one considers how difficult it is to focus the attention of a TV-addicted population for more than a fortnight.
But if there are anywhere balanced and efficient professionals, in and outside politics, that can pull it off, it will be the Brits. They live in London and they know what's at stake...

Monday, July 11, 2005

Mark Spitz

A swimming pool in Puerta de Hierro...

waterpolo as a warm up for the aperitif...Posted by Picasa

When you find yourself stucked up in downtown Madrid in a July Sunday, with celsius figures going largely further than 30, an invitation to a lunch-by-the-pool comes as bliss.
The hosts, Blatand and Garbo, are a true cosmopolitan couple with graceful outlook, refraining admirably from speaking the mother language of the overwhelming majority of guests at the lunch table (a temptation my countrymen seem unprepared to resist, when in analogue circumstances). Mirabello arrived in a huge motorbike. The fourth waterpolo player, Tancos, arrived with wife, Presepio, and dog, (Manfred) in matching colours.
The Eden-like tranquility of the garden was only shaked by the shooting competition (with compressed-air carabine) and the occasional diving of Manfred, either voluntary or enforced.
At lunch, the gazpacho was served with the full ceremonial traditions of an High Mass in Latin, and the poussins stuffed with mushrooms were exquisite. Cooking abilities were discussed. Why Spaniard young married-not-long-ago women do not cook anymore? Presepio defended herself claiming that a mere organic, non-canned tomato sauce takes about two hours out of her alloted lifetime, let alone more elaborate receipes. Mirabello entices us with a description of his risotto al fungi porcini abilities and tries to convince the audience that cooking should be added to the Secondary School obligatory curriculum. Blatand remembers how perfectly happy were his children when given a canned meal without removing the can (therefore avoiding the accusation of cheating when you just transfer food from can to plate and pretend "heating" is "cooking"). This blogger of yours timidly confirmed that he can cook too, having stressed, once again, that a creative combination of tastes, textures and colours on a given kitchen effort is quite close to artistic endeavours.
The recent scandal involving a Very ImportantCEO of a German carmaker and his Brazilian escort to several working visits to different points of the globe was also discussed. Unacceptable behaviour, we all agree. Private life and corporate life should not go hand in hand ( to put it prudly). But what really killed the culprit's reputation for good was Garbo's comment: "What a stingy, mean, little man he reveals himself to be! Hundred of thousands of Euros in yearly salary and bonuses and still he has to fill his Brazilian pleasure-hours under corporate expenses!". Unacceptable behaviour, we all shake our heads in agreement.
Manfred stretches himself on the lawn to speed up the drying process after his latest dive into the tempting swimming pool...

Georgia O'Keeffe

Blue has some redeeming features too...

Colour-manipulation of a non-blue painting
by Georgia O'Keeffe

The Honourable Reader might remember that sometime ago I declared my intention to fully review Ms. Maria Tereza Gonzalez latest exhibition. As an artist, Mate, also known as Bright in the columns of this blog, has some direct relationship with audacious flowers. Not because of some edipo-artistic hidden rapport with Ms O'Keeffe (which I quiz her about) but because her father happens to be an expert in orchydology. To spend most of her lifetime in the Caribe (although in the "wrong" type of coast...), doubly exposed to orchids (both in Nature and among Family) must mean something when it comes to artistic output.

I think Mate's paintings on the walls and the installation downstairs give the full flavour of an artist that knows both what she's doing and where she intends to go - without forgetting, paradoxically, that every artist is also a caminante that will have to do much of his camino while "walking" (al andar, to finish quoting Antonio Machado).
I spend a very pleasant lunch hour sushisashiming and tempuring while Bright tells me all about her life in Iberian-America and Iberian-Europe. When I assume the "sake" has performed its task I ask her for the price of a piece I am coveting ( three three-dimensional huge paper petals that together make some kind of tropical dark-red carnivorous floral installation). We make a deal. I think we are both pleased to having reached a deal.
Why have flowers being intruding in my mind lately, I ask myself? Rather roses than orchids, though, I might add..

flor3.jpg from Mate Gonzalez Posted by Picasa
In the meantime, Ms. Gonzalez has send me by e-mail this proof that the War of the Colours doesn't have to follow the pattern of the War of the Roses... Peaceful Co-existence and Harmony are possible, at least on the canvas..

Friday, July 08, 2005

Anne Bancroft

Back to a botoxed Future?..

The Four Ages of a Woman:
Post-adolescence, Prime Time, Maturity and Museum Piece.

(Featuring Miss K. Kuznetsova, Ms. E. Green and Mrs. A. Bancroft)

So many dinners are full of inconsequential chatting, loaded with meaningless charming words that when a serious issue, bang!, explodes on the white tablecloth, we all stare in disbelief. Surely, she will not go that far, we say to ourselves... WoodyAllen-Manhattanite dialogues in a warm windy night, on top of the chocolate-diving sherries? It can happen, the Honourable Reader can rest assured. Thanks to the courage of Taurina, a fully blooded espanola like don't do them anymore. Thanks perhaps also to the "albarino" White and to the post-dinner Bombay sapphire..

A small perfect-sized dinner, two host and four guests. Outside, in a corner of a peaceful courtyard, with rhododendrons around and as the centerpiece of the circular-shaped table, there we were. Rupert, the host, very early forties, was managing with soft efficiency the delivery of "caipiroshka". His wife, Girissima, (near to forties?) was wearing a turquoise blue Ibiza-acquired top with matching beautiful smiling eyes. The Porteño-Salamancan glamorous couple, Taurina (fortysomething) and Thelaw (early fiftysomething) with Candidata (early forties). Plus this blogger of yours (undefined age, glamorous 40's perhaps?).

Why did the conversation took that particular turn? Why that irruption of female nostalgia for the hips, culo and breasts of their respective Youth Self? Why dit it became the leitmotiv of the tertulia? Because they could not accept the Moscow story of a love affair between their contemporary bull T-bone and a tender young veal medallion? Perhaps. But, as I say incurring the risk of repeating myself, Taurina had guts.

She recalled the last time she tried on a new bikini, under the unforgiving surgical operating room crude lights of a Zara dressing booth, with excruciating detail. We were laughing like mad to her cold cynical auto-critique, inch by a inch, of a no longer post-adolescent body. She stopped, looked at us, in a comic-tragical way, and described, with abundant southerner waving of arms and hands, how a bunch of young insistent guys used to follow her on the beach whenever, in those golden years, she wore her daring bikini. When, as she put it, she was monissima and the chance of touching her culo was to die for. Nowadays, things changed. Taurina could have kill the fucking taxidriver who, the other day, dared to say to her: "It's thirty euros, Señora". She would have been prepared to pay one hundred fifty euros, for Goodness sake, to be driven to that very same spot in Calle Serrano if only the taxista would have used "Señorita" and made her day. Instead, she paid the taxi and left with a hesitant unbalanced walk, feeling like crawling close to the burning asphalt, like an escaping salamander. Was that really her, that dinosaur crossing Serrano in that instant bound to the Zara shop? What business for a Dyplodocus to go and try to find a suitable bikini? Why not a full-length tunic, she felt like asking the shop assistant? When did outlook became so crucial? Surely, at least, the inner beauty can remain young? Candidata interrupts and says with near-desperate anger: "I'll give you all my youngish inner beauty, I don't F%$#$$ care to be ugly or old inside, as long as I can get back my turnonian attractive body of my twenties!" Now, was not that a pure Faustian Challenge, if I have ever seen one? Are we that ready to quickly get rid of our immortal soul, in some Mephystophelian rebajas, in order to regain the slender curves, the pecak-like skin?

So, it went on like that, whisky after whisky, gin after gin, until in the end the dinner turned into supper. A very friendly session, very comical most of the time, tragical now and then, of social group-analysis.

We all grow old in due time, we should just try to laugh about it...

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Rita Hayworth

Farewell to Rita...

An anti-apples version of Cézanne's "Apples and Oranges" Posted by Picasa

Blogs can be very handy. What shell I give, as departing gift, to Rita, a diplo-colleague who's cocktailing us all, later this evening? I've already signed up for the collective chancery offering and I don't feel that inspired to identify THE appropriate personal gift under the circumstances. What about a blog celebrating all the Ritas that were relevant or meaningful to me? How "Lovely Rita" by the Beatles was for weeks my morning shower tune? How Rita Mitsouko's punkish singing saved the face of French pop music for me during my Paris stay? How Rita Lee's lyrics helped my courtship of Miss M., a plumcake with cream type of adolescent girlfriend that doesn't exist anymore? Well, I think the point that this particular arrangement of the letters (by alphabetical order) A, I, R and T sounds very pleasant to me, full of down the memory lane associations.
I have asked this smiling and gentle outstanding professional, a sweet wife and proud mother of two toddlers, to consider working alongside me if I ever get to the Ambassadorial peaks. Her answer was not the grateful acquiescence I kind of expected but rather the starting of a selling herself hard process. She told me what is the city she is interested in, and that, if Fate will ever take me there, yes, she might consider my offer. What a cheek!
I hope she will be happy in the coming years back at the Mother Palace.
I think I'll print this blogtext and give it to Rita later this evening. An original gift, no? I told you, a blog can be a very convenient thing at times..

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

David Lean


The Penguin edition of the "Passage" Posted by Picasa

If you wrote the novel or saw David Lean's film why not reading "A Gourmet Passage to India" at ?