Saturday, June 2, 2007

El bosque de recuerdo

In the grove of memory 1

Have a muffin

They are delicious. My personal favorites - #9 and #11. You might want to skip #3 though - it's a migraine inducing mess.

They have a different word for everything!

I believe the full quote "Spanish is hard - it's like they have a different word for everything!" is attributable to Steve Martin. Anyway, I'll be the first to confess to a certain cultural arrogance upon my first arrival in Spain. The smug notion that, while we English-speakers have an enormously rich array of words to choose from, to express even the simplest idea, those who speak other languages must limp by with a paltry hundred or so. Needless to say, this myth was dispelled pretty quickly. These days, pretty much every day is a humiliating reminder of just how many Spanish words there are, and just how few of them I actually master.

Tonight was a case in point. I slipped out at around 11pm or so to get some toothpaste at the VIPS store. Swear to God, that was my only intended destination. Yet somehow I found myself, around 11:15 pm, sitting in a restaurant named after this character:

with a plate of what would have been referred to in a previous workplace of mine as "Chicken Merck Nuggets". Yes, gentle readers, I had succumbed to the irresistible lure of "El pollo campero".

Before you leap to judgement, let me suggest that you walk in my shoes for a while first. Not every day in Spain can be filled with museum visits, tapas bars, and banter with the charming natives. Some days it's Burger King, Scrubs reruns and the fervent hope you will get an e-mail from someone on a topic other than the size of one's member, potential fun with underage barnyard animals, or the alleged availability of X$ana$X without a prescription in C$ana$a

Anyway, no sooner had I sat down with those delicious pieces of pollo than I realized that I was living my worst nightmare. As this was a completely unplanned visit, I had brought nothing to read! Waves of panic washed over me. The situation was dire. I could not possibly get through the meal with nothing to read. I looked around in desperation. At Burger King sometimes they have sudoku puzzles on the placemats. Or discussions of the fake nutritional value of their products. At El Pollo Campero, nothing. Not even a phoneme of text.

Then I remembered. The toothpaste box! Praise the Lord. A veritable War and Peace of advertising text, both in Spanish and in Portuguese. If it weren't so late, I'd call that Colgate toll-free number right now just to thank them. Anyway, I chewed and I read, until - just as I was mopping up the last of the barbecue sauce with the final greasy piece of chicken, I reached the following text: Children under 6 should brush under supervision, "utilizando una cantidad de dentifrico del tamaño de un guisante".

This confused me thoroughly. Why? Because my knowledge of Spanish is so shaky that I mixed up the word "guisante" (a pea) with the word "gusano" (a worm). So that the whole four blocks home from the restaurant was spent arguing with myself "that's very non-specific advice - worms come in all shapes and sizes; besides which, even an average sized worm would be an awful lot of toothpaste for a child of six". It was only when I was safely back in my room, with access to my dictionary, that I was able to figure out my mistake.

Damned Spaniards. They have a different word for everything.

Paseo del Prado

paseo del prado 2

Free photography exhibit. Link to the remaining pictures is here

Thursday, May 31, 2007

El Internado : Laguna Negra (Update)

Tonight was the second episode of "El Internado : Laguna Negra" (un lugar donde todo puede suceder) and, while not quite as titillating as the pilot episode, it certainly qualified as "must see TV" in my book. (Note to self: get a life.)

This week it was mostly Hector who was semi-naked. While I certainly had no objection to this, I imagine that the general public is going to want to see more of María, la limpiadora loca, fleshwise. However, the degree of sultry teenaged pouting was more than acceptable - the series could also be called "Laguna Negra 90210". My personal favorite pouter is Ivan the bad boy

who - spoiler alert - turns out to be the son of María la limpiadora loca. Meanwhile, el bosque gets more menacing all the while, and Don Alonso (or possibly Don Alfonso) is still missing at large, what with being stuck down in that nasty dungeony place, underneath the wood, with all the skeletons and snakes and that nasty head-wound and all.

The plain people of Ireland: That's all well and good, but we miss "The Riordans".
The management: Doesn't everybody.

Gatitos (warning : post contains saccharine cuteness)

Hey, what's in this box?

it's a box!  what could be inside?

It's a cat. Called Giuseppe.

It's Giuseppe!

Maybe he needs some company.

may 121

Meet Lidia and Lidio.

Can you tell I miss Boris and Natasha?

The plain people of Ireland: Boris. Isn't he that fat marmalade cat?
The management: Silence, wretches! Boris is not fat. He is simply big-boned.

To avoid sending our readers into a diabetic coma, we include this final picture.

Agents of Mobility

What is this person called, here in Madrid? You might be thinking, un policía de tráfico, u algo así. In doing so, you would be betraying your hopelessly 20th century attitude towards traffic-related matters.

No, this person plays a vital role in ensuring unobstructed circulation in the traffic arteries of Spain's proud capital city. A role which is reflected in his title. He is an

agente de movilidad

As is his much-maligned and underappreciated henchmistress, the meter maid.

The plain people of Ireland: Agent of mobility, is it? Begob, there's another very famous agent of mobility we could tell you about. Would you like to know?
The management: Do I have a choice in the matter?
The plain people of Ireland: 'Tis called Ex-Lax. Do you get it? Ex-Lax! Mobility! You should try it sometime.

Fadeout to the sound of peasant guffaws....

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Breaking up is hard to do

You helped me through my first halting weeks here in Spain. You gave me my camera, my Discman, the bery computer on which I'm typing this last billet-doux.

¡Oh, Corte Inglés! We had some good times, didn't we? You introduced me to my first limón helado. My first Kas bitter. Tortilla española. So many new tastes to savor. In those first heady days, it all seemed worth that premium price. Even, here in Madrid, that seven-block trek home with the groceries.

But times change, and we move on. There's a new supermercado in my life now. It's called Carrefour. The reason for my change of allegiance? Well, I think you probably know that already. Carrie is so much less demanding than you. Why, just yesterday evening, I paid a paltry 22€ for a cart of groceries for which you would have asked 40€, you demanding jade.

Please don't get me wrong. We'll stay in touch. Next time I crave abuse at the hands of a shop clerk, I'll be sure to stop by. But pay 1.19€ for a bottle of soda water that costs 0.39€ at Carrefour? ¡Vete a freír espárragos, querido!

In aisle 5. If you can afford them.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Best. Book. Ever.

Serendipity: good luck in making unexpected and fortunate discoveries

(Word History: We are indebted to the English author Horace Walpole for the word serendipity, which he coined in one of the 3,000 or more letters on which his literary reputation primarily rests. In a letter of January 28, 1754, Walpole says that "this discovery, indeed, is almost of that kind which I call Serendipity, a very expressive word." Walpole formed the word on an old name for Sri Lanka, Serendip. He explained that this name was part of the title of "a silly fairy tale, called The Three Princes of Serendip: as their highnesses traveled, they were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of....")

The plain people of Ireland: Sri Lanka. Isn't that what used to be called Ceylon?
The management: Indeed. Why do you ask?
The plain people of Ireland: We´ll let you in on a secret, but you have to promise not to tell.
The management: ¿?
The plain people of Ireland: The secret to the rich, distinctive flavour of Barry's tea is that they use tea-leaves exclusively harvested from Ceylon.
The management: I did not know that.

To continue. When I entered the VIPS store, it was only with the intention of buying a decent map of Madrid. Little did I know that my excursion would result in my stumbling across what can only be described as the



How can I begin to do justice to the awesome fabulosity of this book? Only - and I sure hope the good folks at Dorling Kindersley don't mind my appropriating two further images from the book, but this whole post is a cri de coeur for you to go out and buy your own copy, whether or not you have any interest in Spanish, so how could they - by showing you a few pictures.

know ur verduras

los estilos

Do you see my point? Gentle readers, this book will not just open up a whole new exciting treasure chest of Spanish vocabulary. It will also teach me things I could never have hoped to learn otherwise. Such as the difference between Swiss chard and bok choi. How to spot a French pleat at a hundred paces. The proper fatuous expression to assume in the unlikely event that baldness should strike.

Oh, the places we'll go. The things we'll learn. I am beside myself with excitement. Honestly.
This is simply the


The awful German language

At times, when I despair of my Spanish studies, I remind myself that things could be worse, as this extract from Twain's essay on the truly evil nature of German illustrates:

(I capitalize the nouns, in the German (and ancient English) fashion).

It is a bleak Day. Hear the Rain, how he pours, and the Hail, how he rattles; and see the Snow, how he drifts along, and of the Mud, how deep he is! Ah the poor Fishwife, it is stuck fast in the Mire; it has dropped its Basket of Fishes; and its Hands have been cut by the Scales as it seized some of the falling Creatures; and one Scale has even got into its Eye, and it cannot get her out. It opens its Mouth to cry for Help; but if any Sound comes out of him, alas he is drowned by the raging of the Storm. And now a Tomcat has got one of the Fishes and she will surely escape with him. No, she bites off a Fin, she holds her in her Mouth -- will she swallow her? No, the Fishwife's brave Mother-dog deserts his Puppies and rescues the Fin -- which he eats, himself, as his Reward. O, horror, the Lightning has struck the Fish-basket; he sets him on Fire; see the Flame, how she licks the doomed Utensil with her red and angry Tongue; now she attacks the helpless Fishwife's Foot -- she burns him up, all but the big Toe, and even she is partly consumed; and still she spreads, still she waves her fiery Tongues; she attacks the Fishwife's Leg and destroys it; she attacks its Hand and destroys her also; she attacks the Fishwife's Leg and destroys her also; she attacks its Body and consumes him; she wreathes herself about its Heart and it is consumed; next about its Breast, and in a Moment she is a Cinder; now she reaches its Neck -- he goes; now its Chin -- it goes; now its Nose -- she goes. In another Moment, except Help come, the Fishwife will be no more. Time presses -- is there none to succor and save? Yes! Joy, joy, with flying Feet the she-Englishwoman comes! But alas, the generous she-Female is too late: where now is the fated Fishwife? It has ceased from its Sufferings, it has gone to a better Land; all that is left of it for its loved Ones to lament over, is this poor smoldering Ash-heap. Ah, woeful, woeful Ash-heap! Let us take him up tenderly, reverently, upon the lowly Shovel, and bear him to his long Rest, with the Prayer that when he rises again it will be a Realm where he will have one good square responsible Sex, and have it all to himself, instead of having a mangy lot of assorted Sexes scattered all over him in Spots.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Enlarge your vocabulario

Five new Spanish words/expressions I learned this week that I particularly liked:

1. zanahorías (carrots)
2. Amberes (Antwerp)
3. bastardilla (italics)
4. casarse de penaltí (to have a shotgun wedding)
5. hijodepú (sumbitch)

(Extra credit: use all these words in a single sentence).

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Limericks : The Iberian Cycle (Part III)

My good friend, Jorge, a Galician
Earns a good living by fishin'
But in his time off
He drinks like a trough
His behavior is frankly Dionysian

Then there's my friend Alexander
Who likes to hang out in Santander
He likes to play ninja
With some butter and ginger
A donut, a mule, and a gander

A puta by name of Ramona
Works the streets every night in Pamplona
During the lulls
Between running the bulls
Mona gives all the boys a big bonah

On the beaches down in Benidorm
Going topless these days is the norm
The results can be
Pretty scary to see
Only works if you've got the right form!

Mister Sprinkles

More from the geniuses at Acceptable TV

Each videocip is between 2:30 and 3:00 minutes long.


Earthquake drill

Earthquake drill (3)

La práctica para estar preparado en caso de un terremoto a Boris no le gustó. Si hubiera podido hablar, lo que habría dicho es "¡Déjame en paz, joder!"

Earthquake drill (1)

Natasha entendió mejor la idea.