Saturday, March 31, 2007

Infamous Literary Collaborations

Anna and the King of S-iam a Camera:

The adventures of a woman traveling abroad, who experiences a slight case of multiple-personality disorder, alternating between Thailand in the 1860's and Weimar-era Berlin. Basis of the highly successful musical "The King of Cabaret and I", which single-handedly reignited the Broadway careers of Yul Grey and Deborah Minelli.

Macavity's Rainbow :
Fear and Loathing in East Coker. Eliot eats the peach, but fails the electric acid kool-aid test, while Gonzo writes it all down. Basis of the new Andrew Lloyd Webber musical : "Hairball"

From here to Eternity On the Road
Memoirs of a reluctant traveller.

From here to Eternity Under the Volcano
Maybe things weren't so bad on the road.

The Beet Queen of the Damned
Admit it, you've always kind of suspected that Louise Erdrich and Anne Rice were the same person.

The Incredible Lightness of Being and Nothingness
Twice as much European profundity! Same low price!

Bleak House of the Blithe Spirits
When a recently deceased couple sue their interior decorator, the lawsuit drags on for an eternity.

And in the non-fiction section :

The Joy of Cooking Mammals of the World
The Joy of Sex : Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
Abelard and Eloise at the Plaza
And Quiet flows the Don
(a searing expose of the Russian Mafia)

The Oldest Living Confederate General's Widow from Big Sur Explains Everything about Trout Fishing in America, Watermelons, and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch.

Unfortunately nobody cares enough to buy the book.

A Gaudy Night to Remember
Harriet and Peter get to the bottom of the Titanic mystery

Mr Blandings Builds his Dream House of the Spirits
because, like, bricks-and-mortar is sooooo yesterday

Cujo's Boys
Louisa May Alcott's lesser-known foray into horror traces the fortunes of a litter of demonic St Bernard pups as they wreak havoc across New England.

(Admit it, you'd go to see Cujo's Boys, if it were a movie)

The Little Prince of Tides
Barbra Streisand finally gets her own planet

Girl with a Pearl Earring, Interrupted
Psychological drama about a young Dutch girl who cracks under the pressure of modeling for her employer

The Spy Who Came in From Cold Comfort Farm
Is it Urk? Is it Seth? Or could it be Aunt Ada Doom herself, delivering that long-overdue report on the narstiness in the woodshed?

(Can you tell it's raining in Seville today? A boy has to amuse himself somehow!)

Friday, March 30, 2007

Friday night in Seville

I have no idea why the previous post carries Wednesday's date, given that it was posted 6pm Friday, Seville time. Even daylight savings time can't make up that much of a difference.

Right now it's 9:30 pm Friday in Seville, and I thought I'd try at least one post to capture impressions of the past week or so. This is likely to be a little disjointed, so if you will all forgive the infelicity of style, I'm going to opt for that popular format for those with short attention spans, the bulleted list (as opposed to, say, the tightly knit narrative arc, or possibly 'ark', though a knitted ark probably would do nobody much good).

  • First off, have I mentioned how wonderfully, ecstatically, blissfully happy I feel? "Beatific" is the polite term for the grin that seems to be plastered more or less permanently on my face these days (there's a less polite, hyphenated term that ends in eating, but we won't go there). I don't want to gloat, but it seems important to record this at least once, upfront. No gloating intended, I am conscious of, and deeply appreciative of, my blessings in being here.
  • I've also never been as exhausted in my whole life. But it's the best kind of tired, from a week full of new people, new experiences, the dread subjunctive, walking all over the place, getting lost, reacting in a less than stellar fashion to the majesty of flamenco (see previous post). But boy am I going to sleep in tomorrow morning - I've earned it, damnit.
  • Seville - vignette # 1. I'd forgotten the Spanish obsession with cleanliness, which manifests itself in all kinds of odd, unexpected ways. Such as, for instance, Peppa, my hugely asthmatic, chain-smoking landlady/hostess (though I thought I had signed up to live in "la residencia", or "the dorm", for my time here in Sevilla, la residencia has turned out to be suspiciously like being in residence with a family, hence Peppa) who somehow managed, while showing me the shared bathroom, to inspect my toiletries kit, pull out my sponge and convey her immediate beaming approval, declaring the possible alternative - a washcloth, presumably - to be a breeding ground for germs and enfermedades generally. Anyway, I passed the sponge test. But everytime you turn around, someone somewhere is hosing down the pavement behind you. Nowhere is this more the case than in the area around the cathedral, where they don´t just hose it down, they steam-clean it. With these really high-pressure steamers. I´ve seen little blue-haired tourist ladies jump several feet in the air because some guy started up one of those things just next to them. This weekend, of course, the whole city is deep in preparation for Semana Santa, which starts off on Palm Sunday (Domingo des Ramos). So the cleaning frenzy has reached new heights, as they get the viewing platforms in place along the Avenue de la Constitution. But I have to say that I did a genuine double-take when I say that the steam-cleaning efforts extended to cleaning the trees along the main procession route. I kid you not. A cadre of six obradores were slowly but surely working their way along the main drag, carefully steam cleaning each and every tree along the way, down to the last leaf. One can only hope the dignitaries appreciate the effort.
  • Obsession with hygiene notwithstanding, the number of smokers here is still -frankly - shocking. My favorite teacher, Paco, whom I remember from four years ago as having a fine robust tubercular cough has now progressed to full cancer alert (medical opinions my own, obviously). He suffers visible distress to make it to classes on the third floor (remember the 3rd floor here is really 3 floors up). The sad part is the guy can't be more than 35. of course, you never know, he could outlive us all. But I'd have to think the odds aren't in his favor.
  • Although I still get lost every time I head out of doors, this visit I've actually realized that Seville is a small, walkable city. This realization is liberating because it means that no matter how lost one might feel, recovery is always possible. For whatever reason, I'm much happier this trip to ask for help (something which has given me difficulty all my life), and people are just terrific about making sure they help you on your way. Though one does occasionally encounter that New York tendency of people - usually men - who will confidently pass on complete misinformation rather than admit ignorance
  • So, my internet cafe buddy is starting to give me the evil eye, which I will take as a hint to wrap up these meanderings.
  • Which I will just post, now, without even giving things the once over. Asking for y'all's forbearance and assuring you that, whatever blogspot might think, it is Friday march 30th, 10pm in Sevilla, signing out for now.


Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Once a philistine

A little background first, in my own defence. I've never had a particularly strong affinity for the dance. Friends can testify that, while I can sit through 5 hours of opera, even 20 minutes of ballet can set me to snoring. So last night's events should be judged in this light.

Thursday 22:30. Calle de Ximenes de Exciso in Seville's old Jewish quarter, the Barrio de Santa Cruz. With four other students from don Quijote, I have joined the respectful crowd gathered around the courtyard for what we are promised will be an authentic and moving flamenco performance. The guitar starts off to get things moving, but eventually is supplanted just by the singer and the dancer - once they hit their stride, everything is determined by the interplay between these two. He is seated, white shirt, black pantalones - she is a vision in black and red. Twenty minutes in - the crowd appears mesmerized. I force myself to admire the fancy footwork (and dramatic facial expressions) of the dancer, though my preference is to close my eyes and just listen to the singer.

Suddenly, for no good reason, but with disastrous consequences, a phrase comes into my head that I´d read earlier in the day. One of the discussion threads in´s Table Talk online community is devoted to differences between American and British English, and someone (perhaps even myself) had introduced the phrase "up and down like a hoor's knickers" into the discussion. Which led to a certain amount of humorous riffing involving the word "hoor".

To my horror, just as the flamenco performance is clearly building to some kind of internal climax, I find the following phrase has invaded my brain, unbidden, like an earworm. "yer wan' is decked out like a right hoor". Unfortunately, this expression causes me to dissolve into paroxysms of giggling, much to the chagrin of the people I was with. Of course, the more I tried to control the giggles, the worse it got. And the more fatale the expressions of the dancer, the more I kept thinking "yer wan's a right hoor".

Only after five minutes spent in contortions in the bathroom, and by pretending I had had a bad stomach attack, was I able to regain sufficient composure to be allowed to re-enter for the rest of the performance.

So now, for ever, the noble art of flamenco will be inextricably linked in my mind with the expression "a right hoor". I may never live this down. On the other hand, I have a hard time believing that the whole drama of flamenco doesn't involve some kind of knowing wink at the world at large - surely nobody takes themselves that seriously.