Monday, October 30, 2006

Gamal Abdel Nasser

Happy 50th Anniversary Suez Crisis !

1956 is a date this blogger of yours most cherishes for obvious reasons. There were plenty of very eventful developments on that year, although I allways felt a bit let down because not one single Port wine House declared a Vintage in 56. The two obvious political iconic dates are Budapest and Suez. History will confirm their particular relevance .

The Suez Crisis has been a favorite of the British media for ages. The masochistic trait in Britishness is evident in all that salt being rubbed in the wound of the vanishing Empire. A détour here, please.. During my London times I witnessed Black Wednesday when the Pound was flushed out of the Exchange Rate Mechanism by the tsunami of the currency markets (only Soros could surf those waves...). Why am I telling this? Well, at the time of the débacle of the Pound a precedent was invoked for this drama of seeing Her Majesty's Government surrendering to the Markets. Suez, you guessed right. It was the catastrophic fall of the British Pound that ultimately convinced Anthony Eden that the game was over.. One should return to Suez from time to time...

Of all that I've read about Suez at 50 I particularly like what Samia Serageldin ("The Cairo House") wrote the other day in her blog : "The fiftieth anniversary of the Suez crisis was marked by the media worldwide, with some essays more thoughtful than others. My father had just turned thirty years old in October 1956, when Egypt was attacked by Israeli, French and British forces. Nasser's 1952 coup d'etat had stripped him and his class of landowners of their property, and his oldest brother, a politician and party leader, had been tried and condemned to death (later freed) as ancien regime enemy of the people. It might have been reasonable to assume that a man in my father's position would have welcomed, or at least stayed neutral about, the foreign invasion that promised to topple Nasser's regime and return the status quo ante. He did nothing of the sort: he took his family to the safety of the countryside, and returned to Cairo to volunteer for the civil defense. That's human nature: when your country is invaded, you close ranks. That is one of the lessons of Suez, perhaps, that it would have been well to remember three years ago. Along with this: Suez made Nasser a hero, not to my father, but to the vast majority of Arabs."

Washington Irving

The shade of the frame of this J.S. Sargent ("Court of Myrtles in The Alhambra")
has the same arabesque motiv of the depicted architecture itsef...

Philip Morris

Separatist humour...

Seen in an article published in Barcelona this week...

Michelangelo Buonarroti

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There is something SixtineChappelesque in touching the very small fingers of one's baby-son with one's own fatherly fingers.. Would the Right Honourable Reader not agree?

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Katsuhiro Otomo

AMV Pussycat Dolls -Beep

I hope the Right Honourable Reader is a watcher too..

(Katsuhito Otomo is the creator of Akira, the best example of mainstream Manga)

Friday, October 27, 2006

Henrik Ibsen

Moral midgets and tall pretence...

male dominating female by the sheer size of his personality...

After Faust, Doll's House.. Next!!!

"DollHouse" performed yesterday by NY company Mabou Mines, based on Ibsen 's famous play was very powerful stuff indeed. And full of tricks. The set is a doll's house itself with miniature furnishing just about the right scale for very short men. All the male actors are XS size (we are talking less then 1.40 m here) . All the female actresses are tall (even very tall) and in male-female duos they perform mostly on their knees (with the actors standing) in order to keep a more or less uniform eye level.

From that initial strategical directorial decision the hard feminist agenda of the play could not be made more clear. The subtext is obvious. All men are "small" ( with low Victorian bourgeois values) but that does not prevent them from having the power to submit their women (who land safely in moral high ground by the end of the play).

short men have big egos, they say ...

The theatrical depiction of a failed relationship is always painful to witness. One tends to keep the romantic expectations of one's youth despite all the data accumulated during one's life. And this Norwegian pain-in-the-ass surely knew how to poke us where it hurts. I allways remember the frank comment from Claude Lelouch after the Paris première of Bergman 's "Scenes from a Marriage" : "Ce Bergman ça fait vingt ans qu'il nous enmmerde". There was something refreshing in that reactionary tirade. The really heavy reflexions on the breakdown of relationships seem to have come mostly from countries where there's not enough sunlight exposure. Ibsen is in fact a traitor to the male class. Why? Because in this iconic text depicting the need for women to be liberated from the dependency of men ( an endeavour I totally endorse I rush to say) all the female characters end up being viewed positively by the audience; and all the male characters lack redeeming features. The message is clear: All men are "moral midgets" .

A liberated woman obtains something from the male oppressor through the skilled performance of fellatio..

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Leonor Silveira

Love blogtext...

L.S. ,the unforgetable face in Manoel de Oliveira's "Vale Abraão"

In this week that I have met again (helas! in celuloid only) the cult-actress of Manoel de Oliveira I have to confess an youthful crush for Leonor Silveira. She had the wide-eyed, sweet-smiled and soft-intelligent face of a young aristocratic European circa 1910. I once engaged in social intercourse with her at an obscure little bar in Collares but, being too anxious, I couldn't keep it up. The flame of the conversation, I mean.

Manoel de Oliveira

Self-inflicted Delusions...

To actually meet the Virgin Mary was the main delusional obsession of the lead role (Alfreda) in "O Espelho Mágico", the latest film from 96-years old Manoel de Oliveira. After almost two hours into it, us viewers became restless wanting ourselves to witness the Apparition. Everything is in place, the girl who's going to do the trick (depicted in the picture above) has been briefed, and the semi-comatose Alfreda will surely fall for it.. Then, to our amazement, the screen shows a Muslim woman dressed all in white, tchador included, chanting the pray for Allah.. Stupefaction!.. What is Oliveira trying to convey here? "Has he converted to Islam?" - someone whispers totally baffled. Then follows eight more painfully long minutes of praying women in Sarajevo... And then the film ends abruptly.. All of us, cinephiles who had rushed to Madrid's Filmoteca to see the magical mirror, are in shock.. Only more than five minutes later, when the speculation on the meaning of Oliveira's latest oeuvre was already turning wild, we get the information that there had been some kind of problem with the last film roll. Oh Oliveira, please forget us! Nostra culpa, nostra culpa..

(Everything became clear when one was reminded there was a film about Sarajevo which would be viewed later in the week).

But for a time we actually believed the Old Master of European cinema had lost his marbles... Instead of crying out loud that the King had no clothes left, we, cinephile minions, frantically tried to instill some sense into that irruption of Islam...

It was the type of hyper-contemporary post-modern epiphany that the New York avant-garde would die for...

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Luís Vaz de Camões

An Epic Poem turned into Farce...

A Lisbon theatrical company ("Companhia do Chapitô") which obviously betrays its roots in the Circus (and the children-friendly language of clowns) offered us yesterday, at the Casa de America, a counter-culture version of Camões's biography: "Talvez Camões".("Probably Camoens")

A womanizer and a gambler, a drunk and a brave soldier, a man who globe-trottered the Empire (Morocco, Coastal Africa, India, China) and saved his manuscripts from drowning , Camões was a kind of XVI century Hemingway.

I've always found interesting that our two World Heritage-league poets (Camões and Fernando Pessoa) are each so much the epitome of totally distinct writers' personae. While Pessoa is the insignificant bookworm (like Cavafy) with the talent of a genius but total lack of physical charisma; Camões, with super-human literary talent too, was a charismatic extrovert who didn't shy from the real world (more like Marlowe but with a different sexual orientation).

I hope my children will find some time to read out loud his Sonnets, the climax of love poetry in the Portuguese language.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Charles Darwin

Is Religion part of the Solution or part of the Problem?...

Finished this book quickly thanks to Timotchka-induced middle-of-the-night imsomnia. Someone already inclined to scepticism will found in it arguments for "coming out" and be vocal about his/her atheism . An honest believer will feel attacked and might wish something could be done about it. A waverer, hesitating between belief and scepticism, would probably enjoy the argumentation put in such an highly readable and entertaining fashion.

Two or three key points I particularly retain. One about Einstein's sense of God, which is more the experience of awe at the contemplation of the Universe than a belief on a personal deity. Another about how strong is our "belief in believing".

But surely the most radical proposal of Professor Dawkins is that it's not the fundamentalist version of a given religion that is responsible for all sorts of problems but the a-rational core of (any) religion itself. Saying in fact that the idea that one can work with the religious "moderates" at the same time that one excludes firmly the rotten fruit of fundamentalist is a naive one.

The Right Honourable Reader should get acquainted to a book like this once in a while.. Its subject and theses might sound sulphurous but a degree of controversy in one's intellectual life is always to be welcomed...

Monday, October 23, 2006

Ignacio Osborne

The Arab influence in Spain...

Al~Andalus. Instead of going for the highly sensitive simultaneous depictions of the Cross and the Crescent, a recent article in El Mundo about the Islamic heritage in the Iberian Peninsula had a delicious ilustration imagining a cross-breed between a toro and a camel enlivening the roads of Andalucia....

Marquess of Salamanca

The Palace of the Postal Office, Cibeles, Madrid

My own humble (but venomous) contribution to the debate between Hispanidad and the Catalan Nation ...
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Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Ready for "The" Deal ....

Last Saturday I found myself eating a racion of hot small green peppers ("pimientos de padrone") to occupy my time before a play. Finally, I thought to myself, after negotiating with a generous intake of lager a particularly vicious pimiento, I’m going to see a theatrical “Faust”. Forget Gounod or Berlioz, forget Marlowe or Thomas Mann. Forget Bulgakov or, yes, not to be forgotten, Fernando Pessoa. Forget reading the incoherent full version of Goethe’s work itself. This time, I’m going to seat on a theatre and enjoy the drama in both meanings of the word.

An adaptation by the Teatr Nowy, from Poznan (Poland) of Goethe’s text which won an Award at the Edinburgh Fringe.. In Polish and with no subtitles. At least my feeble knowledge of Russian enabled me to understand Mephistopheles when he took something out of Faust’s dead body and said: “Dusha.. Dushetka”. ( Soul.. Little Soul).

The Right Honourable Reader will not be surprised to learn that this blogger of yours has been particularly interested and fascinated with all the mumbo-jumbo of selling whatever is needed in order to keep one’s youth. My VYW (Very Young Wife) suspects something…

Friday, October 20, 2006

Peter Brook

Excellent theatre can be so simple...

The first installment of my fruition of this year's "Festival de Otoño" couldn't have been better. The French version of Athol Fugard's "Sizwe Banzi is Dead", directed by 81-years old Peter Brook is 70 minutes of pure theatre. The actors, Habib Dembélé (lead role) and Pitcho Womba Konga, have all that's needed to engage the audience and sustain the magical theatrical vibe throughout. With a range of voice-impersonation and the richness of body-language a stand-up comedian would kill for, they make it all credible with the most austere scenic means one can imagine.. Very few props and a staging which might have not cost more than five entry tickets (5 x 20 = 100 €).. Powerful and simple text, first-class acting, and well-chosen bits of soundtrack - and the trick is done.

When I googled about this play I found an interesting article in the Economist which you might care to read.

The troubles with obtaining ID cards with the right stamps on it, which is the subject-matter of the play, are not just a feature of Apartheid's South Africa... How many of us applauding enthusiastically at the end, feeling our white liberal good conscience for not having taken any part on that shameful regime, have made the association with the "sin papeles" of this day and age?...

A good play is worth ten thousand words...

Robert Capra

Shooting without asking questions...

Photojournalism in its more radical sub-species, like war-corresponding or Diana-paparazzing, is all about lightning-speed reflexes. Yesterday, a waitress at the trendy "Pan de Lujo" collides with the bread-tray carrier and three loaves fall on the floor... I pull out my Cybershot from the upper pocket of my vest with the reaction-time of a 100m athlete on the starting block... Not good enough though.. Only the last loaf being retrieved from the floor was caught on camera..

Monday, October 16, 2006

Syd Barrett

Gigolo Aunts: Bostonian pop-rock in town...

Rock and Roll is for teenagers, I always say. Guitars, drums and voice is the only musical genre that has not changed a yota since my own teenage times. Artic Monkeys sound like Oasis who sound like The Beatles, and so and so on... Why not moving on, then?.. As I poke my children many times: Look, there are new things, with plenty of electronic help, that expand our musical boundaries, why this compulsion to stick to outdated formulae?
And then you go to a small place, 100-people maximum, where you are just there five meters from the guitar solos and the screaming lead singer, kilowatts of sound pounding your ears, a neighbour bissfuly polluting the atmosphere with his porro ... and you understand why rock and roll is still alive...
Last Friday, at the El Sol, a "we'll-give-you-all-we've-got" performance from the "Gigolo Aunts" reconciled me with my delayed adolescent self...
Very few in the audience were actually contemporaries of Syd Barrett, the Moody Blues co-founder, who christened the term "gigolo aunt".

From his solo album "Barrett":


Grooving around in a trench coat/ with the satin on trail/Seems to be all around its tin/ and lead pail, we pale// Jiving on down to the beach/to see the blue and the gray/seems to be all and it's rosy/-it's a beautiful day!
Will you please keep on the track'/cause I almost want you back'/cause I know what you are/you are a gigolo aunt, you're a gigolo aunt!/Yes I know what you are/you are a gigolo aunt, you're a gigolo aunt! (...)

Hernán Cortés

Discovering new territories pushing a baby-pram...

Exploring the Madrid wilderness...

Thanks to Google-Earth I can retrieve the steps from Sunday's exploration... From home base camp to the secret Botanical Garden, with its exotic flora; to the awesome Retiro Park, with so many specimens of the same New World tribes Cortez found in his legendary journeys; and then back to square one. Timotchka, my co-traveller, behaved superbly...

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Anna Politkovskaya

The Price of Life is Cheap in Some Places...

I cannot ignore in this blog the tragic death of a Russian journalist who kept trying to tell her countrymen about what has been (really) going on in Chechnya...

Knut Fredrick Idestam

The strict-minimum parafernalia one has to carry with one...

(KFI was the Finn who started in Tampere, and then in Nokia what would become the biggest cell-phone manufacturer in the world)

Beau Brummell

Ingenious solutions spurred by necessity...

One cannot wear a blazer or a suit without a silk handkerchief strategically displayed on the top pocket... What to do then when none is available, due to an error in packing one's personal items ? ... You start to look for credible alternatives... Will this do, you ask yourself, grabbing that abandoned tiny piece of cloth... "No, not my knickers!" - shouts Malinkaya, with horror... I ignore her, thinking to myself that the polka dots in dark blue are a perfect match for the blue blazer-white shirt combo.. Does not the Right Honourable Reader agree?

António Augusto Aguiar

Modernist street sculpture (anonymous artists from Lisbon townhall)
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Rafael Moneo

Autumn leaves are coming!..
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Ysmail, OM, OH, LVO, CIC

Glittering elegance...

Once in a while I decide to give Ysmail, the renowed pinguin of this blogger of yours, the opportunity to show off my decorations. Nature bestowed upon him formal wear anyway..
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Monday, October 02, 2006

David Beckham

Players, Madrilistas, Funky tattoo and Becks...

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Santiago Bernabeu

The Madrid Derby...

And (God) created "The Myth"..

Yesterday I took MayaMalinkaya to the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium. To the emotionally-charged Derby. The match between the Real and the Atlético. Now that there are three Portuguese players footballing for Atlético my favorite local colours are turning from violet/white to red/white. The logistics of leaving the 4-month Russoguese at home are never easy, but all hesitations from his mother were removed once she realised David Beckham is still playing for Real. She shouted with enthusiasm "Guapo! Guapo!" each time Becks touched the ball ( which happened less than half a dozen times..). When the match ended the shirt 23 was removed and the torso of the English player was on show, evoking an enthusiastic response from MayaMalinkaya one thought was reserved for Brad Pitt only.

The most frequent form of abuse that the Real fans were uttering to destabilize the Atletico team and supporters related to doubts about their opponents' sexual orientation. Bearing in mind that the Atletico HQ is the Viciente Calderon Stadium, the meaning of "Alla en Calderon / Hay mucho maricón" becomes clear. The unintended irony in that shout is that the current President of Real Madrid is a Calderon himself.

Shouldn't the supporters re-write their slogan, under the circumstances?