Seen in Cerdanyola, the day after Spain's Euro 2008 success
Naaahhh… they deserved it. Feliçitas al equip Espanyol!!
I was most amused to see this description of my birthplace in the Encylopedia Britannica:
During World War II Plymouth suffered severe bomb damage from air raids. The new Plymouth has some of the finest commercial, shopping, and civic centres in Britain.
They should really have a policy on sarcasm.
You know the old hymn, usually sung plainsong:
That good old Saint John
And all his boys
They baptise by fire
They brings the noize
Yes, tomorrow is Saint John's day, known in these parts as Sant Joan. To celebrate the great Baptist's special day, the pagans of Catalonia like to set-off fireworks and firecrackers, along with jumping over bonfires (which apprently exorcises the devil and scares away witches). The Cerdanyola massive (Gemma and I) will be having our traditional barbecue (accompanied by huge clouds of gunpowder smoke and the constant risk of being hit by falling, burning detritus), before we descend to the Plaça and chuck some of our Super Dinamit at the local kids.
If you're not into pagan fire ceremonies, you might like to follow the Guardian's live coverage of the situation in Zimbabwe. They obviously seem to think that something's going to happen.
On Wednesday, the temperature shot up by eight degrees compared to the day before. So Wednesday marked the end of the crappiest late-Spring that I've ever seen here. We definitely needed the rain, so I'm not really complaining.
At this moment, it's 34 degrees in the shade outside. Hello sunshine, hello heat.
I've been meaning to post a link to this article for some time now. It tells the story of the development of hippie philosophy and is a good starting point if you want to investigate the conceptual similarities between Nazism and the hippies. Much of the story takes place in Ascona, Switzerland, which was the epicentre of the 'back to nature' movement, popular with Hermann Hesse and Carl Jung among others.
The guiding philosophy at Ascona was a mixture of "nature mysticism, sun worship, theosophy," and vegetarianism, which together with various other ideas constituted the idea of Lebensreform (life-reform). These concepts were also bound-up in two apparently opposing political positions: Nazism and Ghandism. Ascona looked like something many of us would recognise from various 1970s films and documentaries:
The beautiful natural setting inspired urban people to sunbathe in the nude, sleep outdoors, hike, swim and fast. This village quickly developed a universal reputation as a health center.
Hermann Hesse was excited when he saw four long-haired men with sandals walk through his village on their way to Ascona. He followed them, settled in and then took a nature cure for his alcoholism. The year was 1907.
It was from Ascona that people like Dr. Carl Schultz and the wonderfully named Dr. Benedict Lust exported the concepts of Lebensreform and Naturopathy to the United States and California in particular.
In 1906 Bill Pester first set foot on American soil having left Saxony, Germany that same year at age 19 to avoid military service. With his long hair, beard and lebensreform background he wasted no time in heading to California to begin his new life.
He settled in majestic Palm Canyon in the San Jacinto Mountains near Palm Springs California and built himself a palm hut by the flowing stream and palm grove.
Bill spent his time exploring the desert canyons, caves and waterfalls, but was also an avid reader and writer. He earned some of his living making walking sticks from palm blossom stalks, selling postcards with lebensreform health tips, and charging people 10 cents to look through his telescope while he gave lectures on astronomy.
He made his own sandals, had a wonderful collection of Indian pottery and artefacts, played slide guitar, lived on raw fruits and vegetables and managed to spend most of his time naked under the California sunshine.
The many photos of Pester clearly reveal the strong link between the 19th century German reformers and the flower children of the 1960’s…long hair and beards, bare feet or sandals, guitars, love of nature, draft dodger, living simple and an aversion to rigid political structure. Undoubtedly Bill Pester introduced a new human type to California and was a mentor for many of the American Nature Boys.
But Ascona wasn't merely the birthplace of the 'perennial counter-culture' which informed the hippies of the 1960s and 1970s. It was also a centre for the development of a modern, Germanic art form which was closely linked to concepts of race and nation (as well as nature). Ascona was, to all intents and purposes, the birthplace of modern dance. Rudolf von Laban (along with Mary Wigman), closely connected to the Lebensreform idea, established his 'School for Art' at Ascona, and it was here that he developed his notation which was an attempt to remove the formality of classical ballet and replace it with an almost tribal expressionism, a freedom linked directly to the concepts of Lebensreform.
Modern dance went on to become "an art form that went on to build the National Socialist myth," (Laure Guilbert). That last link is to a review for Guilbert's book, Danser avec le IIIème Reich, which I haven't had the opportunity to read yet. In the book, Guilbert makes the point that modern dance has, for some time, managed to expunge any idea of a connection with Nazism from its history. The truth is that,
Laban et al. were entwined with the mind-set from which the NSDAP itself issued.
Leading figures of the Lebensreform movement went on to design and choreograph the ritualistic dance of the 1936 Berlin Olympics, all captured on film by Leni Reifenstahl – a former student of Ascona's Mary Wigman.
Now, my intention in drawing these threads together is not to imply that all hippies are Nazis. That argument doesn't stand up. But it is interesting to see how the myth of the 'Summer of Love' in San Francisco is really just that: a myth. It is also interesting to see how hippie counter-culture is, conceptually, closer to some of the roots of Nazism than, say, socialism. And I knew there was something wrong with modern dance.
Hippie Roots and the Perennial Subculture (caution, contains images of nude hippies)
I just wanted to extend my warmest congratulations to Lieutenant Air Officer Sub-Lieutenant Commodore-in-Chief (Scotland and Submarines), His Royal Highness the Prince William of Wales on the news that he has been made a Royal Knight of the Garter* by his grandma.
This is the latest honour the young prince has earned but it's definitely the best yet.
And some royal correspondents are already talking up the prince's chances of earning the titles Duke of Cornwall and Duke of Rothesay in the future. Talk about an achiever.
*No comments referring to aristocratic men and their proclivities for wearing women's underwear will be published. The Royal Garter just sounds like it's women's underwear, and so doesn't count.
George Bush waves to the crowds photographers from the steps of his London pied-à-terre.
Most of you will have seen that disgraceful video that has been doing the rounds, which depicts a festive celebration called the Toro Embolao. This fun activity involves tying a bull to a stake, settting fire to his horns and then watching him go mental. It's obviously top-class fun for all the family. If you haven't seen it, you can click here (be warned: it's pretty unpleasant).
Well luckily, the bulls have been doing a bit better recently. First came the great news that prize bullfighter, José Tomás was seriously injured after a bull gored him twice. Well, he still killed the bull so hardly a taurine victory. But then I heard that a chap in Valencia somewhere was killed by a bull over the weekend. And what, pray, did he do to the bull to prompt this reaction? Oh just a spot of Toro Embolao.
Surely, you deserve a nomination in the Darwin Awards if you expire after being gored by a bull which you were trying to drive mad. Well, it brought a smile to my face!
By the way: if you want an alternative opinion, check out Erik's blog about animal torture and Catholicism. He makes the salient point that those who oppose bullfighting "advocate obscene acts among members of the same sex". Shhh, Erik: you're giving away the whole militant gay/animal rights axis! Check out the rest of his blog, too: it's hilarious.
What you won't see on Telemadrid is this video (apparently made by Telemadrid themselves). It depicts the Queen of Madrid, you know: that one Graeme has a crush on, visiting the Ramon y Cajal hospital in Madrid. Many of the public health workers (or perhaps that should be: Trotskyite terrorists) were protesting in support of public health care, chanting and shouting slogans. Esperanza lost it a bit and shouts "You're paid to fuck things up" (my translation for "Estáis pagados para meter follón") into the face of one of the protesters, before turning and laughing with one of her henchmen cronies colleagues. The video's interesting because it shows that she has very little that is either presidential or human about her, as she gets personally involved in the argument, but only to exchange insults.
The real story, though, is how Telemadrid executives placed a total embargo on the footage, and issued a memo to staff to warn them that the pictures couldn't be sold to any other stations. This is indicative of the way Esperanza Aguirre understands the word 'public'. 'Public' means: good when it can be of personal utility to an avaricious politician; bad when it means paying people 'to fuck things up' (i.e. provide health care).
I went shopping yesterday evening to pick up a few extra supplies that I hadn't bought the day before. Luckily, we already have fresh meat, fruit and vegetables in the house as Caprabo in Cerdanyola already had empty shelves.
The meat and fish counters were closed and there was very little in the way of vegetables and fruit. Earl Grey tea had sold out (OMG!!) and I couldn't buy any flour either. So we're only about four days into the truckers strike and it is already having a noticable difference on working people's lives.
I picked up a can of baked beans (perfect emergency food), a bottle of wine, some parsely, some chocolate, some rice and pasta and finally some canned tuna (yes, all of these were still available as of last night). We should be able to survive for quite a while on that. I also cooked some faves a la catalana last night, a recipe which you only need to eat a small amount of to fill you up. It's really easy and very tasty. Actually, my recipe is a bit of a bastardisation as I use mongetes (butter beans) instead of faves (broad beans). So it was really mongetes a la catalana, then.
Gemma and I are going to watch Radiohead in concert tonight at the Forum in Barcelona. It looks like the weather will hold out. I just hope they managed to deliver the beer safely.
Great news from Nepal. After 150 [actually, it was nearly 250 years] years of ruling the country as living gods, the Nepalese monarchy has been abolished by its people (well, they did it last month, but the former king has just spent his last night in the palace). It's always good news when kings are deposed as they are, without exception, national parasites with few duties but many 'historic rights'. The Nepalese people have taken a huge step today. The 'royal' palaces will now become museums.
Oh, and apparently, panic buying is ensuing in Spain. I didn't want to join in but then I wondered: what if I'm the only sensible person and everyone else panic buys? What price would I pay for being calm and superior? So actually I went and stocked up on a bit of veg and meat, the things I figure might run out if this strike continues. Sadly, a truck driver was killed on the picket yesterday… not sure if he was trying to cross it but that's irrelevant.
Not that many people care about this but this leadership election could directly affect my household (no, we're not militants, one of us happens to work somewhere where a change in direction from ERC could mean changes).
Anyway, I reckon that out of the available choices, the Carretero federalist agenda makes sense, though some will say that this is the most extreme of the options on offer. Obvously, Puigcercos is revolting (and he masterminded the last electoral campaign, an unmitigated disaster: he doesn't deserve to lead). Benach seems OK but he kind of looks like he has a drink problem… sorry but it's true. Reyner, I don't really know anything about (but apparently, neither does anyone else)… he seems to be a bit of a radical, and his current's website incudes a handy map of where they've burnt the king (in effigy).
BTW: why is it that so many Americans in Spain love the king so much? Same reason they love the queen of England, I guess.
Yeah, so Carretero should win but Benach probably will. Prediction over.
Edit: Told you it was a crap prediction! Puigcercos and Ridao won!