Saturday, March 21, 2009

QQ 9-10

Chapter 9.

Next Mick gets cutesy with narrating
A trick, once fresh, now irritating.
Been copied by, to name a few
Jorge Borges, Paul Auster too.
It's cutesy, clever, très post-mod.
Personally I just find it odd.

"What happens next" I hear you ask,
"Between Quixote and the Basque?"

Well, after our narrator handoff,
We learn the fight turns out a standoff.
Neither wins, though both are hurt
(There might be damage to Don's shirt).
No - strike that! In the catalog of woundage,
It's the Don's ear that needs the bandage.

Chapter 10.

Nothing whatsoever happens. Really. Trust me.

Plain people of Ireland: We don't believe you! Boo! Hiss! Rhubarb! Rhubarb!
MOTP (disgusted): Oh, for CHRIST'S sake. ALL RIGHT!

"The Don and Sancho chat and eat
Just bread and cheese, cause there's no meat."

Happy, now, rabble?
Plain people of Ireland: Well, that wasn't very interesting!
MOTP: {sigh}


Chapter 4.

Don leaves the inn. "Saves" boy being whipped.
Attacks muleteers. Is ill-equipped.
Gets thrown from horse. Is soundly battered.
And left in ditch. Completely shattered.

Chapter 5.

Neighbor finds the Don, half-dead.
Rescues, brings him home to bed.
Anxious family; much relief.
Blame Don's books for all his grief.

Chapter 6.

Our Don's in bed; head, heart on fire.
Priest and barber plan a bonfire
in the library. What's worth saving?
Are interrupted by Don's fresh raving.

Chapter 7.

And so the books, source of temptation
Are fuel for major conflagration.
Library's sealed. Housekeeper grins.
Thinks lack of books will rein Don in.
Rejoicing too - Don's niece demure,
But celebration's premature.
Don rests at home, seems calm and sane,
but's planning to take off again.
He needs a squire - think Tony Danza;
Tony's not free - finds Sancho Panza.
Seduces Sancho with fine words.
The pair head out, adventure-wards.

Chapter 8.

The Windmill Scene! It's quite dramatic.
And of our tale so emblematic.
But over soon. It's disappointing.
I have to say, Mick left me wanting
More. But no - one page, then on.
To further exploits of our Don.
He fights a Basque, with sword immense.
The tale breaks off --- we´re in suspense!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Public service announcement : Quik Quixote

You may be interested to know how my reading of "Don Quixote" is coming along. Well, I've finished two books of the twelve-volume set. So far, so good. But I'd be lying if I said it's all beer and skittles. The language is reasonably understandable - Spanish has changed much less in the last four centuries than English has done. But I did find it necessary to go out and buy a used copy of the Penguin Classics translation, which I am reading in parallel, to make sure I am not missing anything crucial. While it's not quite the snoozefest I had feared, it's not exactly a laff riot either.

Which is why, here at MOTP central, we are inaugurating, with this post, a new public service for our readers. We are slogging through "Don Quixote"; why should you have to? The answer is - you don't! Just subscribe to our new service -- QUIK-QUIXOTE -- and get the abbreviated version of this classic picaresque tale in convenient serial form. Note that this offer is of limited duration, and available to platinum MOTP subscribers only.

Clearly, it would be unreasonable to expect our readers to subscribe to a pig in a poke, so herewith the MOTP introduction, and summary of the first few chapters. Please also be sure to read the CONSUMER PRODUCT WARNING at the end of this post.


This literary gem of the siglo d'oro,
I have to say's been my bête noir, O
spare your censure, gentle reader,
I bet you haven't read it either.
Let's make a deal. I'll save you time.
Give you a crib in deathless rhyme.
A Cliff Notes version of the Don,
Cause Mick Cervantes does drone on.
So tune back in, my little cupcakes,
And watch this space for future updates.

Chapter 1.

Too many books; our Don's brain's addled.
So he decides that he'll get saddled.
His scrawny steed? That's Rocinante.
His secret sweetheart, Dulz the dainty.

Chapters 2 - 3.

Don sallies forth in search of fame.
Soon gets confused (recurrent theme
Throughout this tale). Gets taken in.
Thinks "castle", when he should think "inn".
Hilarious fun, with knaves and varlets
And -- pace, Maiden Aunt -- two harlots.
By chapter's end, our Don's a Knight
And off in search of wrongs to right.


A warning will, I hope, here be excused.
How much the reader -- you -- will be amused,
Depends on how you view a poor confused
Clown's antics. Are you laughing? Or bemused?

If it's the latter, here's a quick suggestion.
Just stop right now. Spare yourself indigestion.
But if your favorite circus act's the clown,
Read on, and I'll try not to let you down.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Jet-lagged Hamsters? Not a Problem.

Cuy Bono?

This little guy, whom you or I might call a guinea pig, is known as a "cuy" in Peru. No, it's not because of the little cuy-cuy squeaking noise he makes, it comes from the Quechua word "quwi" (though I suppose that name could be based on the little quwi-quwi squwiking noise.

You probably know that guinea pigs make very popular pets.

You may even know that they are a very popular food source in the Andes.

But did you know that they were also the main dish at The Last Supper?

No, I didn't think so.

Don't say this blog isn't educational.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Elegy for Eliot

I believe there was a request for doggerel. Who am I to disappoint? Though this was written some time ago, I don't think it's appeared on this blog. So, to commemorate the one-year anniversary of a certain politician's peccadilloes (or rather the public disclosure of the aforementioned indiscretions), here is the


Let us go then, you and I
While the evening is spread out against the sky
Like the Baghdad skyline behind Wolf Blitzer
Or a criminal taken down by A.G. Spitzer

In the room the women come and go
“I’m called an escort, not a ho.”

The corridors of power are lonely, late at night
The bad guys all day long you have to fight
You deserve a little reward – maybe a cookie?
Nope – even a hero needs some nookie.

In the room the women come and go
“Plastic works, a cheque, or cash to go.”

Temptation looms – a vision, out of reach.
The voice of conscience: “Don’t you eat that peach!”
Too late! Our hero reaches for his cheques.
Another politician laid low by the lure of sex.

In the room the women come and go
“Eliot? Oh yeah, huge ego and libido.”

I should have been a pair of ragged claws
scuttling across the shores of silent seas.
Instead my taste for high-priced whores
Has made of me the emperor of sleaze.

(with apologies to, you know, Tom)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


I may have mentioned previously that I was slated to bring pastries to class this morning, in celebration of Saint Patrick's Day. I know some of you will be waiting with bated breath for an update, so here is a partial pictorial record. Clicking on the images and following them to Flickr should lead to some further comments and notes.

The first picture was taken before the marauding hordes of students attacked:


This assortment represented a half kilogram (so about 18 ounces) of the finest from the Horno San Onofrio, about a block and a half from my house. The total of 30 "units" cost 14.50€, or about 50 centimos apiece (roughly 65 cents U.S.) As noted in the comment on the photo, as a general rule, palatability was inversely proportional to the vividness of the colour. The brown ones were by far the best; this definitely had something to do with the fact that most of them were either truffles or profiterole-like. The less said about the green ones the better.

Our second photo was taken after the hordes had been grazing for a while:


For a version of this photo with notes, see this link:

Or, for more extensive photographic documentation, see the entire set:

A note of apology. It will be obvious to anyone browsing the set that this blog is in serious need of a professional food wrangler. It might, to give just one example, have helped avoid the unflattering - and unwarranted - resemblance of one of the more delicious pastries to a malignant tumour. (Lighting is everything)

The fact is that we had a professional food wrangler on staff, but had to let him go last week when he was caught repeatedly nibbling on the scenery. (See last week's post regarding el Ratoncito Pérez).

All in all, OBG St Patrick's Day 2009 was a hugely popular success. It seems almost churlish to point out that a major contributing factor to its popularity was the relative paucity of actual baked goods in the sample. Thus the desiccant potential of the delicacies was kept within acceptable limits.

Even the German students were happy during today's testing.

Monday, March 16, 2009


We haven't had a kitty update in a while. Here they are, taken on the Ides of March.

Once in a blue moon

If you ever played Trivial Pursuit back in the 80's then, like I did, you probably think you know the origin of the expression "once in a blue moon". It means something rare, because a blue moon occurs when there are two full moons in the same calendar month - a rare occurrence - right?

Wrong! It turns out that this is a misconception, which took hold in the popular imagination during the 1980's, promulgated by a (mistaken) American radio broadcast and the makers of Trivial Pursuit. The correct definition of a blue moon turns out to be a little more complicated, and refers to an event which is even rarer still.

What is the correct definition? Listen up, and I'll tell you. A blue moon is the third full moon in a season that has four full moons. How often does this happen? Let's take a look:

The "Maine Farmer's Almanac" Rule referred to in the diagram is the definition I just gave, 3rd full moon in a season with 4.

It's evident from the diagram that this happens somewhat less often than the occurrence of two full moons in the same calendar month. Furthermore, while the short duration of February means that the latter definition can never happen in February, the Farmer's Almanac definition implies that February is one of only four months in which a blue moon can occur.

The plain people of Ireland: Sure you could be making all this up. How do we know you're not just pulling our legs, in some kind of Saint Patrick's Day prank?
The management: Ye're a suspicious lot, aren't ye? But don't take my word for it. Check it out for yeerselves here. The good scientists at Sky and Telescope wouldn't be misleading the public.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

El Museo del Ratoncito Pérez

In Ireland and the U.S. we have the tooth fairy ("la hada de las dientes"). In Korea and Japan, children are exhorted to throw their baby teeth on the roof "for good luck", while chanting some kind of ditty to a magpie. In Mongolia, baby teeth are hidden in a piece of meat and fed to the dog. (Hey, I don't make this stuff up, OK?) In France, it's the Bonne Petite Souris who is charged with exchanging baby teeth for new ones.

Here in Spain, a mouse plays a key role as well. But not just any old mouse. No, indeed. It's the famous Ratoncito Pérez:

It is a little-known fact that el Ratoncito Pérez was born and lived in Madrid. And that there is a museum in his honor in the house of his birthplace, at the Calle Arenal #8, a mere quarter of a mile from Kilometer Zero in Plaza del Sol:

At this site, in the Prast pastry shop, in a tin of biscuits, lived the mouse Pérez, invented by Father Coloma in the eponymous story, written for future king Alfonso XIII when he was a child.

On Thursday I visited the museum. Thus I can reliably inform my readers that the biscuit tin in question was a tin of Huntley and Palmer's biscuits, and that the story was written when Alfonso was just eight years old. The story features the eponymous mouse, el Ratoncito Pérez and a very aristocratic child named Bubi, who is an obvious stand-in for the prince:

bubi 002

Bubi is understandably nervous about the whole losing-a-tooth business:

bubi 003

But through his magic powers, the little mouse is able to transform Bubi so that he can accompany him on his tooth-gathering activities throughout Spain, thereby dispelling his fear (at the cost of giving him distinctly mouse-like features, but I suppose some willing suspension of disbelief is called for here):

bubi2 001

And so, ever since, el Ratoncito Pérez, by royal decree, goes on his nightly mission of exchanging baby teeth for little gifts of toys throughout the land.

Admission to the museum is only one Euro. When I went I was the only visitor, so I received individual attention from the lady guide, who was obviously delighted that someone had wandered in off the street. A cultural experience not to be missed!

Squid and Frog's Buttery Holiday Special