Friday, September 29, 2006

Maria Fiodorovna

Tsarskoe Selo Revisited ...

Yesterday took place the re-burial of Maria Fiodorovna in St.Petersburg, next to the tombs of the Romanovs as was her dying wish. The Tsarina Maria Fyodorovna, wife of Alexander III (immortalized more than anything else by a bridge between the Paris' Rive Droite and Rive Gauche) and mother of Nicholas II was a donor of Danish blood to the Imperial DNA. History tended to treat her better than her unfortunate daughter-in-law. In a liberal democratic monarchical system the consorts of the Sovereigns are politically irrelevant. In Autocracy things were slightly different..

I happened to be re-reading some material on the Russian Revolution for purposes I will explain to the Right Honourable Reader in due time. In a kind of “ all men being equal although some might be more equal than others” analogy, all great books on the Russian Revolution are equally enlightening but Orlando Figes ’s “A People’s Tragedy – The Russian Revolution 1891-1924” sheds more light than most. There one can find small precious vignettes on secondary actors of the Tragedy.

Maria Fiodorovna is remembered on two highly dramatic political events. The opening ceremony of the first embryonic Parliament in Russian history, the (First) State Duma in 27 April 1906; and the peculiar mix of land-reform and Russian Nationalism that was beyond the famous western zemstvo crisis of 1911.

On the first occasion, held in the Winter Palace, the two worlds were set in different halves of the Throne Room. The Court was on one side, the representatives of the liberal landowning classes and the peasantry on the other. A total flop, as we would say now. And now back to Figes: “As the royal procession filed out of the hall, tears could be seen on the face of the Tsar’s mother, the Dowager Empress (Maria Feodorovna). It had been a ‘terrible ceremony’, she later confided to the Minister of Finance. For several days she had been unable to clam herself from the shock of seeing so many commoners inside the palace.’ They look at us as upon their enemies and I could not stop myself from looking at certain faces, so much did they seem to reflect a strange hatred for us all’.

On the second occasion, she showed better political skills than his son’s entourage. Stolypin, the lost last-hope of Russian statesmanship, threatened to resign if his Western Zemstvo Bill was not approved, using, by the way, the stratagem of a direct promulgation by the Tsar when both chambers were closed. Says Figes: “ It had taken several hours of persuasion by his mother, the eminently sensible Dowager Empress, to get the Tsar to go against the advice of his wife (who was at centre of the plot against Stolypin). When he received Stolypin at the Gatchina Palace his face was ‘red from weeping’.

Should we care in any way for this "ancient history"? Well, yes, very much so. The centenary of "1917" is just round the corner. Is this blogger's deepest conviction that by that time, on the eve of the expected commemorations, our "final" impressions about the Russian Revolution will be set in stone. What future generations will think of what really happened then will no longer be modifiable. A bit, if you want, when a given event gets the movie industry treatment.( Will anyone have a alternative view to the Irish Question after seeing Ken Loach's films? ).

It's a sort of race against time. The temptation to see, for instance, Lenin with pink coloured glasses will be enormous. The fight for a revisionist's view of the role of White leaders in the Civil War, like Kolchak, Denikin or Wrangel, is very much on, but there is not too much time left. Between the canonization of Nicholas II by the nostalgics of Imperial Russia and the canonization of Vladimir Ulianov by the nostalgics of Soviet Russia there must be another way. The Russian Revolution still is the single most important event to explain modern politics and to fail to understand it is to fail to understand how our political forces have evolved.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Nikolai Gogol

Sabatchka Sam, guarding the Holy Russian Empire...

Antonio Tejero Molina

An Afternoon at the Parliament...

This week we witnessed one of the very rare occasions when a visiting Head of State is invited to speak to the Deputados from the tribune of the amphytheatre itself. This blogger of yours could not resist to take some (forbiden) photos for the benefit and enjoyment of the Right Honourable Reader.

Quite impressive the evidence of the presence of Col. Tejero Molina in a certain 23rd of February, many years ago:

The shots are deliberately still visible on the walls of the amphytheatre of the Congreso de Los Diputados... That day some deputies had more physical courage than others.. When the warning shots were heard, most ducked and awaited squatting for the what's next while a very few, namely Adolfo Suarez, kept standing with utmost cojones and dignity...

Monday, September 25, 2006


Due to a request from the public, a new image of the blogger's lunch-box...

Charles Stewart Rolls & Frederick Henry Royce

StateVisit Cars....

"Pabéllon de Estado", T4 Barajas, 9-25

There are occasions when only a Rolls would do...

Steve Jobs

iPoding a Surprise-Party...

Last Friday the Russkaya and this blogger of yours were invited to a surprise-party. Just like in the movies. ElCazadorDentista and his delightful wife, AirlineTopGun, had invited dear Otter to dinner, in her birthday, without telling that a large group was waiting for her, inside, with the lights turned off.
The party was great (food, drinks and people stuff) and the music was great too. The songs seemed too familiar to Otter though. And that was the final finesse of the hosts. With the cumplicity of Otter's daughter, ElCazadorDentista had kidnapped the birthday girl's iPod two days before and brought it home. We were in fact listening to the personal iPod choices of Ms Otter herself. Nice touch...

Friday, September 22, 2006

Napoléon Buonaparte

(Heels-) Size Matters?...

Two politicians, cabinet colleagues, and rivals for High Tenure, walk together. On Election Day, would the Right Honourable Friend rather vote for A or for B?

Ernest Hemingway

Strategy vs Tactics

Two friends had agreed to meet for a drink after the long summer vacations. Where to go? In the end to the "Bar Inglês" of the Hotel Wellington. Renowned for being the hotel of the toreros during the Feria de San Isidro, the Wellington has all the charm of a decaying beauty. A bit like Venice, say. The two friends found themselves with large glasses of water in their hands. Only it was not water but ice-cold gin. They call it Dry Martini or some other fancy name. Venice and the generous drinks reminded one of a scene out of Hemingway's "Across the River and into the Trees". Tough-guy posturing but under the thick skins hopeless romantics. Harry's Bar /English Bar. The ghosts of two different types of women were in attendance. When you think of it both the character Renata in that novel (Papa's infatuation with Adrian Ivancich) and the " A Farewell to Arms" character Catherine (about Hemingway's relationship with Agnes von Kurowski in IWW) .

One of the friends, after listening to an elaborate argument about long-term marriages in the old days versus short-term relationships in the current ages, shouts:

"Right! That is it! Women in those times were masters in thinking strategically. Nowadays it's all about tactics".

The two friends went home drunk but with a renewed wisdom.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Jamie Oliver

Bribery with "Pasteis de Nata", a form of Gourmet Corruption...

A compatriot, owner of a pattisserie that specializes in the Portuguese traditional custard pies ("Pasteis de Nata"), has brought with her two dozen of it to the office of this blogger of yours . She needed a document or two. Was she expecting a more favourable treatment because of the incredible pleasure experienced by one's tastebuds? I guess so. Did she get it? Undeniably so.

Luchino Visconti

Pasarela Cibeles: the Dictatorship of the Famous for being Famous...

Healthy BMI at Madrid's Fashion Show

Thanks to my fratello I found myseld yesterday escorting three exceedingly elegant ladies to the shows of Lydia Delgado and Victorio & Lucchino at the Madrid Fashion Show, the "Pasarela Cibeles". The Body Mass Index was of course on everybody's minds, but I am happy to report to the Right Honourable Reader that the junk food-indulgers have not quite yet taken the catwalk by storm. Even if the white collants Ms Delgado made her models wear were punishing for otherwise stunning legs, all models had the acceptable waifness... Anorexia and bulymia are of course worries a father of two daughters can relate to, but obesity is a statistically much more serious problem in our societies... When obese candidates to public jobs will be refused work after having been measured and BMI-evaluated, on the grounds of the need to give young people the right sort of model image, I will take seriously the politico-medical correctness at Pasarela Cibeles...

I got the impression, from my very moderate experience and knowledge of Fashion Shows (only ever been to London, Madrid and Moscow Fashion Shows and for a very small number of times) that clothes are more and more just a side-kick to the real industry at work here: the tabloid press, the "prensa del corazón" .

The photographers have a pseudo-cool rude f..*%&$-all debonnaire attitude towards their targets. They jump with fake deference, photoshooting from the hip, at the sight of news material. Tabloid celebrities do not behave much better. On a theatrical play or a classical music concert, say, one would not be taken to the front seats once the performance has started. Yesterday, some late arrival, famous for being famous (which means TV visage recognition) got to her seat when the show was truly going on.

In the end of it all, my companions - NewGirlOnTheBlock, PaulinaBorghese and La Abogada - and this blogger of yours, exchanged some words with Mr. Lucchino (one half of the Victorio & Lucchino fashion house) . As a true Sevillian he has a charm and brilliance only Andalucia can produce.

Clothes were very nice too.

Jose Manuel Primo de Rivera


From one of the many ads published in local newspapers

What is better for the health of a democratic society? Self-induced amnesia or catharsis? The argument will run on and on...

Bernard Arnault

Moët & Chandon was very active in the after-parties, offering mini-bottles of bubbly you could drink with the help of a new plastic device. Back home, both Ysmail (top) and Julius (above) had a go at it...

Victorio & Lucchino

Getting the last details right, before Victorio & Lucchino's défilé...
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Thomas Burberry

New flagship store of Burberrys, on opening night's morning
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Karl Lagerfelt

Shopwindow of Chanel's in calle Ortega y Gasset

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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Yuri Dolgoruki

The Red Square. A Militia car, the Cathedral of The Protection of The Mother of God (St Basil's) and one of the fortified towers of the Kremlin Walls.

An image is worth one gigabyte of words: the Police is guarding, the Church is awe-inspiring and the State presides over .

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Walt Disney

The Right Honourable Reader will find further down, with due enthusiasm, draftblogs I to IX. Destined never to acquire the fully mature status of complete blogtexts it deserved nevertheless a chance to come out. Using the awful ritualistic command at a junk food outlet in the States: Enjoy! ...

Sophia Copolla

Cake is the New Rucola...

An article in Weekend FT (june 3rd) by Susie Boy about how in this Summer - after seeing Sophia Copolla 's latest film ("Marie Antoinette") - we will all find ourselves indulging in multiple-tiered cakes, the current epitome of culinary taste...

Filipe II

Anti-Castillian Reflexes...

A Spaniard writes about the old demons of the Portuguese distrust towards Spain, which he attributes to the Spanish indifference for Portugal. Must be it, I thought! A lover (or a simple neighbour...) can support rejection better than indifference.. To blog about it..

Hernando Cortez

The Triangular Destiny of Spain...

Antonio Gala, an octogenarian-looking intellectual who once looked with lascivious eyes at my VYW (very young wife), defends that the body of Spain is European alright but one of its hands is in the Maghreb and the other in Iberoamerica.. The history of Spain has, in every sense, the marks of Islamic blood and American blood. The triangle of the Spanish heart, he calls it, adding: "a grand Destiny"...

Now, if one uses this model, what could one say about Portuguese destiny? ... European body? Are we happy to "just" be Europeans? Is that enough? A Maghreb hand? Not really.. What about a Brazil hand? .. But Spain is bigger than most Ibero-american countries while Portugal is a small irritant for the gigantic ego of enormous Brazil.. Black-African blood?.. Sure.. Pride and joy about it.. And what about delusional dreams of lost Indias, of South East Asia fingerprints, of the exotic enclave in Chinese Far East?.. What about the million and a half descendants of Portuguese who live in North America? What is the devisable destiny of a population with this kind of background?.. Dare not to be just a shop-keeper, I say.. At least, dare!

Teixeira de Pascoaes

National Identity...

In the the traditional Mass included in the popular festivities of the Portuguese National Day in Madrid, the Priest, a compatriot who happens to be the local Nuncio and the compatriot Nuns that sing in the Choir let loose their patriotism. The final chant is an ode to Our Lady of Conception, the Godmother ("Padroeira") of Portugal. The refrain does not go for subtleties: ("Ó Glória da Nossa Terra / Que tens salvado mil vezes / Enquanto houver Portugueses / Tu serás o seu Amor!") and the last stance is quite jingoistic too: "Portugal qual outra Fénix / À vida torna outra vez / Não se chame português /Quem cristão de fé não for."
It is in fact a thesis of the Chosen People-variety... Is Roman Catholicism a genetic component of Portuguese identity? In the same way that atheistic Jewish Israelis, pork-eating non-Yahve believers still consider themselves Jews at tribal identity level, a Portuguese - even an Atheist, or a non-Catholic - has to get on board, as far as identity roots are concerned, the final chant to the glory of Nossa Senhora da Conceicão?...

Principe Boadbil

Back to Al~Andalus ? ....

The return of Islamic prayers to the Cordovan medieval Friday Mosque? Not joking, but surely tongue in cheek, the head of the Islamic Junta in Spain, Mansur Escudero, asked the Government to allow the conversion of the (Mosque)-Cathedral of Cordoba into "an ecumenic temple where Muslims, Christians and believers of other religions could pray together in the same days and could strengthened their spiritual and affective links". The mosque of Cordoba was consecrated as a Christian cathedral long, long before 1492, it must be reminded. In 1236, in fact. As far as we know cordovan Church authorities are not amused...

Oskar Kokotchka

Stereotyping the aborigines...

I was introduced by a local smiling snob, in between cocktails, to the concept of "magnata of castilla-leon", a kind of epitome of chav-like high-income vulgarity...

Alain Ginsberg

Drug Wars...

Is grass better than alcohol? Joke heard at a dinner-party: "Kids, don't drink and drive... (handling a joint) .. smoke and fly! "..

Charles Saatchi

Power in the Art World ...

An article in Weekend FT (june 3rd) by Anthony Haden-Guest reviewing "Avant-Garde to Pluralism" (essays by Irving Sandler) about the distribution of (taste-making) power in the art world. By art world Sandler meant 'certain artists, certain art editors, art critics, and a few historians, certain museum directors and curators, dealers, collectors', all networking. Before the advent of the (art) market as such, power (taste-making power) was mostly with artists. (say until the 50s). When Europeans and then American begin to buy contemporary art (mainly abstract expressionism) power shifted to collectors. When the abstrexssionist bubble blown up power shifted to critics. Critics were Kommissars of the ideological purity of artistic "schools", having to denigrate in an anti-trotskiite stalinist fashion those who belong to the "wrong" school. Colour-field abstraction, minimalism and pop art were the "isms" that critics championed with exclusivist love and hate. The big critics era (who got the highly talented deserved flak from Tom Wolfe in his famous essay "The Painted Word") was also short-lived. By the late 60s power begun to shift to art dealers. For some time, with the decay of importance of schools as such announcing present day pluralism, dealers were in control. In our time, Sandler defends, power has shifted to collectors (collector-dealers as Saatchi or dealers-collectors). They in turn have highly-paid consultants, rather than rely in art-critic journalists. ( What about artists that seem critic-proof, asks Haden-Guest, don't they have power?). Who has the power now but the Pinauds and Berardos, says I.

Karl Popper

God-like Physics...

An example of a Calabi-Yau structure...

Supersimmetry, multidimensional superstrings and Calabi-Yau manifolds are some of the hermetic jargon that identifies a scientist "lost for ever" for science, who entered the realm of the theoretical physics that try to explain the ultimate universal truths of the cosmos. As they put, modestly, no more no less than a "theory of everything". Their leader, whom his highly IQ groupies call The Pope, is Edward Witten, a charismatic professor at Princeton. Robert Matthews wrote about this charade in the FT, reviewing Peter Woit's "Not even wrong". Apparently the theory - called M theory in its latest incarnation - is failing Popper's number one rule, the so called 'falsifiability' principle. Not one single prediction has been produced so there's no way to confront the theory with some stern realities out there. The theory then becomes the worst sort of theory, according to the words of the great physicist Pauli: it's not even wrong!

Grand Prince Vassili III


UNESCO's world heritage site Novodevichy Monastery, Moscow

The gloriously beautiful Novodevichy Monastery, built to commemorate the conquest of Smolensk by Vassili III in 1514, was where Sebastian joined last week the ranks of Roman Orthodoxy. Under the patronage of Mstr.Freddy, of shared DNA, a near free-thinking Roman Catholic. Where does this blogger of yours stand in all this religious œcumenism, the Right Honourable Reader might ask Himself? I will keep the answer to that legitimate curiosity outside the frivolous borders of this blog, if the Right Honourable Reader will allow me.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Santiago Carrillo

Madrid, 17 September 2006,
The "Fiesta" of the PCE (Partido Comunista de España) -
courtesy EFE
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Vladimir Nabokov

Plagiarism in the nymphets-world?...

It seems Nabokov helped himself of large parts of a German written Lolita... The difference in literary quality between the earlier work and the Nabokovian masterpiece is such that the discussion doesnt really quite start...

Beatrix Potter

A very cute publicity to a chidren-store in Ulitsa Sretenka, Moscow
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Patriarch Alexis

Backstage Orthodoxy...

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Alexander III

Back in Moscow

The Bolshoi Theatre under wraps...

Moscow, Russia. Same feeling of a hot–blooded city compared to which all European capitals seem to have red currant stuff in their veins. Feels good to witness again urban life as a rapidly evolving draft, as a work in progress. Even the most dynamic cities in Euroland give you the sensation of “finished oeuvre” about it. Moscow might sometimes be ugly, brutal and on the eve of explicit violence but it’s invigorating and keeps us going with a refreshing buzz. It’s like a dive on a surf-waving Atlantic rather than a pleasant bath on the Mediterranean waters. Maybe it’s an acquired taste. Many very good things in life are acquired tastes though: caviar, non-fiction writing, arty cinema, very intelligent women..

Friday, September 15, 2006

Pierre Louÿs


A shadow, an alter ego, a doppelganger...

This blogger of yours was 15 minutes late to a dinner-party at the heart of toff Madrid last Wednesday and that meant being first guest to arrive. The only other early-bird, Notalmodovar, might have had some English punctuality inherited from the blood of his famous family namesake. He was supposed to come with his sister, Alba Nelson, but something had prevented them from travel together. BlondLou, the Dear Hostess, was relieved when told that she had not mixed up e-mails. There is another Alba Nelson, apparently. Same age, same school, same gym. Notalmodovar knows all about that other girl. He keeps hearing from friends in parties though that she either had just left or that they were still expecting her. “But have you actually seen her?” – I ask. “In fact, although I’ve been close to it for the last ten years I’ve not actually met her”- he answers back … and that’s when the “Doppelganger” theme infected, as an operating system's virus, the whole dinner-party.

The blond Alba arrives in the mean time and confirms she had indeed met the brunette Alba (or was it the other way around?) . How can you keep your sense of self if someone robs you of that most precious self-identity tool, the unique unbreakable combination of your first name and your family name? (To illustrate my point let us say that I would plan for the murder of any Jorge Ryder who would come my way).

Someone says that the only doppelgangers in real-life, not alter-ego shadows of oneself but actual replicates of one’s identity are monozygotic twins. To the surprise of most of us we had one half of a twin pair and one third of triplet trio at table! The JusticerodeCastellana has a twin, who was the first to emerge into this world and therefore the elder brother according to the law but the youngest one according to biology. Is there a “second son” syndrome among twins? ( The Iron Mask story comes to one’s mind).

Delightful LouÿsScholar is a triplet and she confesses that the situation might sometimes not be that easy to deal with. She makes that statement with serious but tender almost sad eyes, and a Bilitis Song fragment comes to mind:

" Ouvre sur moi tes yeux si tristes et si tendres/ Miroirs de mon étoile, asiles éclairés,/ Tes yeux plus solennels de se voir adorés,/ Temples où le silence est le secret d'entendre.//Quelle île nous conçut des strophes de la mer? /(...) "

So we sailed on, around the dinner-table, keeping the conversation journey close to the wind of dual-identities.

Was Sagenevesse a pure French-Swiss or a Swiss-French? Paris-Genéve or Genéve-Paris? Was the twin a Pasha-goer or a briefcase-carrying CEO? Was the triplet a student of Pierre Louÿs’ serious stuff or a secret admirer of his more licentious, and celebrated, poetry?

We even got into a lengthy and slightly bizarre argument of a very peculiar case of double-self. Is there a physical virginity of Virgin Mary distinct from Her theological virginity (Immaculate being the absence of the stain of the Original Sin) ? Catechism had been taught so many decades ago that consensus was unreachable. Even the most pro in Religious Affairs among us, who would have considered being a priest if only the Church could accept it, was not sure about it. By the time we switched subjects, if this blogger of yours can recall it, Saint Anne herself was about to become a Biblical virgin..

Immaculate Conception is not your day to day subject at a dinner-party, the Right Honourable Reader might agree. The SeñoraCura made the point that Our Lady of the Conception was the Patroness of Spain and I stepped in, deciding that I would have none of it. It is a well known fact that Our Lady of Conception is “ours”, being the Patroness of Portugal since medieval times. She disagreed: the Patroness of Segovia and of Spain since the XIII, she said. “What Spain in the XIII century ? There was no Spain then.. ” - I counter-argue. Our national and Catholic identities became embroiled.

- Tribe and Religion, one always doppelganging the other...

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Ivan Grozny

Saint George

So, the Right Honourable Reader missed this blogger of yours, has He? Posted by Picasa