Saturday, November 28, 2009

El internado - un lugar donde todo puede suceder

Things have spiralled a little into the territory of the truly bizarre in Season 3 of "El Internado", but it still has that delicious mix of everyone furtively lurking in the hallways and secret passages that makes it irresistible to some of us. I have only one more episode to go in Season 3, by the end of which it's safe to guess that Hector's deep secret will be revealed. I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that he is actually the twin of Irene Espi, who is currently being held prisoner by the evil Latin teacher in a secret lair in the underground passages. She is, of course, the alleged-to-be-dead mother of young Marcus and adorable little Paula.

But the details are just far too complicated. That 30-million dollar Hieronymus Bosch triptych is still at large, to mention just one random plot thread; then with all those runic symbols carved all over the joint (I really need to brush up on my Futhark), it doesn't seem too much of an overreach to think that the main plot twist has to do with overzealous neo-nazi human genetic/eugenics taken a little too far, what with the availability of all those orphans for experimenting on, no questions asked, back in Franco's time. But I've been chastised for letting my enthusiasm for this series get the better of me, so enough already.

I failed to mention that when I went to pick up the Sunday newspaper in Cadiz, I was able to secure, for a paltry 5.95 euros, my very own Internado fan-pack:

internado fan pack (with 3D gafas!)

Note those far-out 3D gafas, and that stylin' school crest. Plus full cast bios, and a special 270-minute DVD replete with details of the archivos secretos*. Unfortunately, I won't be able to take full advantage for a while, to avoid spoilers for Seasons 4 and 5. Season 6 just began aqui en Espana.

*: Including, one hopes, details of the creepy "Project Gemini" files. If there is one thing that is abundantly clear by now on this series, it's that being a twin anywhere in the remote neighborhood of El Internado is a very bad idea indeed.

Friday, November 27, 2009

The anti-Santa faction

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Yes, Virginia. There is an anti-Santa faction.
"How can this be?", I hear you ask.
Una buena pregunta.

Well, the thing is, here en España, the established tradition has always been that children receive their Yuletide gifts from the three Wise Kings -- Caspar, Balthasar and Melchior. As we know, the Magi, or Reyes Magos, don't put in their appearance until the feast of the Epiphany on January 6th. So the prevailing custom throughout Spain, for centuries and centuries, was that little children would hang their stockings on the balcony on January 5th, in anticipation of whatever goodies the Reyes Magos would bring. Unlike that fat old gentleman from the North Pole, Melchior & co are way too dignified to mess with stuff like chimney entrances.

Everything was fine until - inevitably - those nasty hegemonistic Americans, hellbent on subjugating Europe to their materialistic, capitalist will, began to poison the minds of innocent Thpanish tykes with their Saturday morning cartoons, their holiday Christmas specials, their seasonal technicolor motion pictures, all prominently featuring Santa Claus, arriving on December 24th with a cornucopia of consumer goods for young and old alike. It didn't take too long for the avaricious little Iberian rugrats to figure out that here was a perfect opportunity to guilt-trip mama y papa into delivering a double dose of holiday gifties.

A vocal minority of defenders of true Thpanish tradition holds out against the evil influence of the fat interloper from the North Pole (most often they blame Disney), but the battle has essentially been lost, and they are fighting a rearguard action at this stage:

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In related news, tonight the Christmas lights were turned on throughout the city. I am so excited, as I had been afraid it might not happen until after I left. Here are some random photos I took while out walking around earlier this evening.

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The Christmas tree at Sol.

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Lights over the Plaza Mayor.

I know that I will be out shopping this weekend!

End of the adventure?

end of the adventure?

No matter what the folks at the Cervantes Institute decide, if the certificate above is to be taken at face value, in the eyes of Don Quijote I have now attained the highest possible grade at the highest level of Thpanish. So I will permit myself an immodest YIPPEE!

It's a little bittersweet, however, because it becomes more and more clear that I can no longer use "learning Spanish" as an excuse for further globetrotting. Which raises the immediate question - what now?

I have a few thoughts on the matter, which I need to mull over a little more before sharing them with you. Watch this space for further developments.


I should mention that this week saw a repeat of the Saint Patrick's Day episode of OBG, in honor of Thanksgiving.

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But the participants were distinctly more engaging (and enthusiastic):

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Olivier and Emily

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Ana and Cathal

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A good time was had by all.

At the Post Office

Gentle readers. Pride goeth before a fall. So says the old saw, and its accuracy was once more demonstrated this morning, when I trooped along to the "Correos" office, bearing the first of my packages to be shipped home. As I waited on line (an entirely civilized experience at the Spanish post office, as in Spanish railway stations, as you just take a number when you first arrive, and wait to be called, thereby sparing everyone the agony of trying to figure out which line moves fastest), I noticed that the lady next to me had a "caja verde" just like the one I had assembled at home. To my chagrin, I noticed that her final assembled version did NOT look just like mine. Further comparison with the assembled model in the display case verified that I had indeed managed to screw things up, ending up with two external cardboard flaps that were evidently meant to have been tucked inside the box itself. What an idiot I felt!

Now, had we been in Germany, things could only have gone from bad to worse at that point. Rejection, public ridicule, probably even a fine for misuse of state-issued property. At the very least, I would have been forced to buy another box, cast out on the street to attempt to repack things there (because obviously packing a box on government property would contravene at least one by-law), then forced to stand in line all over again, as the bovine bourgeois Germans looked on in amused contempt.

Fortunately, here in Spain they do things a little differently. The fine postal employee behind the counter could not have been more helpful*. Once he diagnosed the problem, he made it abundantly clear that this was not just my problem, but his - and promptly went about solving it, with oodles of sticky tape and plenty of reassurance that lots of people made the same mistake (which I very much doubt, but I really appreciated his kindness in saying it). Three minutes later, we were done, and I was on my way. (Still trying to imagine any German bureaucrat even loaning me so much as a pen to write with, let alone half a roll of packing tape).

So, my first 7 kilograms of books are winging their way homeward. For a mere 50 euros. To put this in perspective, recall that it cost me 450 euros to ship 15 kilos by DHL last spring. And though it will take 10 days by post, it's not as if I will be needing any of those books any time soon. And yes, my next 7 kilograms are packed, in a correctly assembled box, ready to ship out tomorrow.

*: On the four or five occasions when I have visited the post office here in Madrid this visit, each of the employees I dealt with has been not only helpful, but friendly and genuinely determined to solve whatever issue concerned me. So this post is dedicated to those good folks. They really managed to make a difference in this visitor's day, something I don't take for granted.


Our featured item of the month is a delicacy purchased in Cadiz, known as a mantecado.

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Bearing the royal endorsement of none other than that old Grumpy McGrumperson, Felipe Segundo.

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At this point, I'd have to say things don't look particularly promising. Better have some emergency liquids on hand:

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Oh my God! It's indescribably bad. Like biting down on a cube of the caked ashes of ol' Felipe himself. How did they manage to make something so hideous? And do they have a deal with the local crematorium?

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The explanation becomes clear. I should have paid closer attention to the wrapper. Still, when it says "el mantecado mas antiguo del mundo", I didn't actually think they were referring to the particular one that I was just about to consume (read: "ingest, attempt to masticate, and spit out in a fit of coughing, as I desperately reach for the reviving mineral water").

But one has to admit that their choice of royal patron is an inspired one.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The revolting cigar-makeresses burst into the stage

Act 1.
Carmen is a cigarmakeress from a tobago factory who loves with Don Jose (Duet: "Talk me of my mother"). There is a noise inside the tobago factory and the revolting cigar-makeresses burst into the stage. Carmen is arrested and Don Jose is ordered to mounting guard her but Carmen subduces him and lets her escape.

Act 2.
The Tavern. Carmen, Frasquito, Mercedes, Zuiniga, Morales. Carmen's aria ("The sistrums are tinkling"). Enter Escamillio, a balls-fighter. Enter two smuglers (Duet: "We have in mind a business") but Carmen refuses to penetrate because Don Jose has liberated her from prison. He just now arrives (Aria: "Slop, here who comes") but here are the bugles singing his retreat. Don Jose will leave and draws his sword. Called by Carmen's shrieks the two smuglers interfere with her but Don Jose is bound to dessert, he will follow into them (final chorus: "Opening sky wandering life").

Act 3.
A rocky landscape, the smugler's shelter. Carmen sees her death in cards and Don Jose makes a date with Carmen for the next balls fight.

Act 4.
A place in Seville. Procession of balls-fighters, the roaring of the balls is heared in the arena. Escamillio enters (Aria and chorus: "Toreador, toreador, All hail the balls of a Toreador"). Enter Don Jose (Aria: "I do not threaten, I besooch you") but Carmen repels him wants to join with Escamillio now chaired by the crowd. Don Jose stabbs her (Aria: "Oh rupture, rupture, you may arrest me. I did kill her") he sings "Oh my beautiful Carmen, my subductive Carmen."

Shamelessly lifted from this link: garbled Carmen plot

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Come on down to Andy's!!

For a Thanksgiving feast that doesn't stint on the pumpkin:

thanksgiving dinner at andy's

Er, make that 'pumking'. With oodles of croutons and mounds of wipped cream.

Cajas verdes

This trip, the extent of my bibliomanic debauchery has been so extreme, and the exchange rate is so feeble, that I have been moved to consider other delivery options besides the truly extortionist services of DHL. Thus it was that I found myself in the post office this morning, enquiring about shipping options, tariffs, weight limits and the like. Compared to DHL, the post office is a steal, so I came away with two fine eco-friendly boxes, pictured below. To be assembled en casa.

david's nightmare

Now, to a normal person, this last requirement, that of assembling the boxes oneself, would be a mere trifle. I, however, am not a normal person. Anything even remotely involving constructing a three-dimensional object from a two-dimensional template strikes fear into my little dimensionally-challenged heart. All you engineers and architects out there can scoff as much as you like, but the fact is that the wiring in that particular part of my brain just never got installed at the factory. And this is one situation where my facility with the subjunctive is of no bloody use at all.

So the only question remaining is - "should I start drinking before I make my first effort, or wait until after I've managed to wreck the box I bought specifically to practice on?"

The whole situation would be funny if it weren't so pathetic.

But wait .... Maybe there is hope yet:

Ya está!

Ya está! And without even a single drink!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Hay un montón de fotos!

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El ciervo dice: "David ha sacado muchas fotos de Sevilla y Cádiz. Es imposible mostrar todas las imagenes aquí. Por qué no echas un vistazo? Haz clic en el enlace":

(The stag says "David took a bunch of photos in Seville and Cadiz. More than can possibly be shown here. Why not take a gander at the link below?")

Sevilla y Cádiz

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cadiz wants to dance!

hotel room door - cadiz


Gentle readers:

I know this will come as a major disappointment to some of you, but the fact is, I never did make it to Gibraltar yesterday. Yes, I know, you were promised pictures of Barbary apes, so you have every right to be peeved. But I had not done my homework properly, and it turned out that it would have taken two local buses (and 2.5 hours) just to make it to the border town of La Linea, and three hours to get back. Which just didn't seem all that appealing, to be honest. In retrospect, I might have been better off travelling to Manchester and getting one of the direct daily flights from there.

Instead, I lay in bed shamelessly until 10:30, then had a leisurely breakfast at the generous hotel buffet and bought myself a 15-Euro City tourist bus ticket for Cadiz. Fifteen euros well spent, as I was able to hop on and off at will, and explore the various nooks and crannies of that enchanting city. Fortunately, I was able to avoid being gored by the various bulls that were marauding through the city centre, injuring various passers-by (see link at previous post).

Cadiz is gorgeous, and I don't regret the decision one bit. I will just have to return to see Gibraltar on some other occasion. Alas, I cannot provide compensatory photos of either Señor Cruise or Ms Diaz, as neither was there in person during yesterday's aborted film shoot.

The plain people of Ireland: But you promised us pictures of monkeys!
MOTP: I know. But sometimes life is like that. Get over it already!

An open letter to Ms Cameron Diaz

Dear Ms Cameron Diaz:
I've been following your career on and off for some time now and the thing I just don't see is,
Why would a star of your caliber want to make yet another cliched Thpanish movie with Tom Cruise?
I mean, the guy's bad news.
Just ask that fine Thpanish actress, Penelope what's her name, oh - that's right - Cruz.
Or that misfortunate actress currently acting the part of his wife who is always in the news
For all the wrong reasons. I really have to say,
Filming a movie with the not-so-genius title "Knight and Day"
Seems destined, as they say here in España, to go directly to DVD*.
And though I know that you were nowhere near the set in Cadiz yesterday, being instead somewhere well out of reach,
Surely it should give you some pause to know that the bulls escaped the set and trampled a few onlookers before finally ending up frolicking on the beach.
But these are just the musings of one random Irish gay gent,
Who wishes you nothing but success in your future endeavours, but also thinks that maybe you should hire yourself a new agent.

*: given the Thpanish pronunciation, "day-oo-ve-day", this does, in fact, rhyme.

Bulls run amok

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Long time readers of this blog will remember the tale of Gladys, the serving wench:

In the picaresque city of Cadiz
I'll tell you what the latest fad is
The sailors at leisure
Line up for their pleasure
With the amiable serving wench, Gladys.

Here at MOTP central, we are committed to tracking down full details of any story as fraught with human interest as this one (our readers deserve no less), so we are happy to be able to provide this recent update (despite its somewhat sobering nature):

The tale of our serving wench, Gladys
Has an end, you'll agree, that quite sad is.
The sailors they skipped
Town, now Gladys has trip-
lets, and is not even sure who the dad is.

Word on the street locally is that Planned Parenthood may be considering adopting Gladys as a spokesperson. Strict rules concerning the privacy of minors prevent us from providing any further information on the three little bundles of joy, though we can reliably inform our readers that the rumor they were each born with tiny little tattoos is an urban legend. A canard, if you will.