October 30, 2010

How to solve a medical problem

"Up and down his body there were whispered rumours of pain. In fact, physically, at all times, he felt epiphanically tragic. His doctor had died four years ago ('Unfortunately I am terminally ill'); and that, in Richard's mature opinion, was definitely that. He had a large and lucent lump on the back of his neck. This he treated himself, by the following means: he kept his hair long, to keep it hidden. If you went up to Richard Tull and told him he was in Denial, he would deny it. But not hotly".

Martin Amis, "The Information"

October 29, 2010

Abel Quezada, Pacman

Abel Quezada became very well know in the late 1950's thanks to this cartoon. In the 1980's he was doing covers of The New Yorker, while Pacman was eating ghosts. He died in 1991 (NYT Obituary).

 * * *

Escribió Monsiváis a propósito del "Tapado" en tiempos del PRI:

El Tapado: La sombra del burócrata

A lo largo de cada sexenio el Tapado es el acertijo de cuya solución dependen fortunas y encubrimientos. Al principio, es un chiste al que le otorga forma y rentabilidad publicitaria el caricaturista Abel Quezada. El anuncio "El Tapado fuma Elegantes" es la cima del sentido del humor usado por la sociedad para, de paso, celebrar su impotencia.

El Tapado es el Sucesor, pero también el centro de las nuevas dádivas y confirmaciones, es decir, el Tapado es el fantasma de la presidencia por venir, el espectro que ha de materializarse en poder absoluto, y por eso los chistes sobre el Tapado festejan también la inexistencia de la ciudadanía. Doble fila de la ironía: el Tapado es la adivinanza cuya solución correcta es promesa de ascenso, y el Tapado es el rostro espectral que el adivino fallido devela con terror.

October 28, 2010

Wolf whistle

I posted recently those photos because there is a story to tell.

It was dark and chilly, downtown was dead except for a few tourists, like me. I was at a corner with a red light, busy with my camera. I felt a couple reaching the corner as well, and stopping by. They were talking peacefully, but I didn't pay attention to them. Through the camera I noticed a car approaching, and waited a bit to take advantage of its lights. It also stopped. Then, the driver wolf-whistled.

I did my shot, checked the pic, and he wolf-whistled again. It was a taxi driver looking in our direction. "Thanks, folk, but you don't need to whistle at me, not interested!", I yelled at him. He laughed and said: "Not for you, for her". So I turned at her, who was very offended: "He needs your attention". She got even more offended: "How you dare?". "Mate, sorry, no interest either on her side". With a funny sign, he asked me to insist. I smiled at her: "Maybe you should..." And she turned around decided to end the little game...

"Oh, my God, how are you?!" Her partner was surprised and a bit jealous. He then looked at the taxi for the first time and shouted: "Hey, you!" They all laughed, "How come are you here? What a coincidence!", "Yes, long no see...", "We'll call you!", "Yes, talk to you later...", "See you!", "Bye!". He drove away.

The woman said to me: "Oh, sorry, that's a friend of ours, thanks for being so persistent". "You're very welcome". We crossed the street laughing and then they disappeared around the corner...

October 26, 2010

No(w) life at Times Square

Not being a New Yorker, the most appalling thing for me when I visited Times Square for the first time was the striking impact of seeing nothing but artificial things, besides people of course.

I sat down on the red carpet and for five minutes I tried to identify something natural: no llamas, not a bird, not a tree, no dogs, not even a cloud.

Such a stark impression was completely new for me, and I have never been in such a state of mesmerization.

A Mexican NYU student, Marco Castro, had the same impression and is offering a cool solution: Bus roots. He is putting plants on the roofs of buses all around the city.

Fotos: Inge Morath, A Llama in Times Square (1957)
Shane Ramkissoon / Bus Roots (2010)

Héctor García, Pablo Cruz, Madonna

Héctor García is one of the best Mexican photographers. His "Paso a la luz" made me recall a sexy shot by a friend of mine, Pablo Cruz, who is doing a great work with his... shit, yes... Canon... (hey man, upgrade to Nikon!). I take it that his Crucifix refers to Madonna, but I might be wrong.

Paso a la luz (1963)

Crucifix (2010)

Live to tell, "Confessions Tour" (2006)

Update (April 2011): Found some time ago Constantine Xenos' drawing:

Cross (2010)

October 25, 2010

Men nights

"Why do men cry? Because of fights and feats and marathon preferment, because they want their mothers girls, because they are blind in time, because of all the hard-ons they have to whistle up out of the thin blue yonder, because of all that men have done. Because they can't be happy or sad any more -- only smashed or nuts. And because they don't know how to do it live when they're awake.

And then there is the informationsomnia, which comes at night".

Martin Amis, The Information

October 24, 2010

Hey, Beauty: Ruth Orkin, Nacho López, Barbara Klemm, Esther Bubley, Mario de Biasi

American Woman in Italy (1951)

Evita Perón (1951)

Cuando una mujer guapa parte plaza por Madero (1953)

Gli italiani si voltano (1954)

Brazilian Street Scene, Ouro Preto (1957)

 Johannesburg (1978)
Thanx, Anonymous!

And not the same, but still in the same genre, perhaps:

Ethan Ethenberg, Israel 2000 (2000)

October 23, 2010

Melting down: WikiLeaks, WWF

 Melting down governments (logo, 2006)

Melting down the planet (ad, 2009)

George Orwell on Miners

After the successful rescue of the miners in Chile and some deaths in Ecuador and China, not to mention the Conchos catastrophe few years ago, it is worth having a look to George Orwell's Down the Mine (1937), a very accurate description of the work done by coal miners: 

"(...) Watching coal-miners at work, you realize momentarily what different universes people inhabit. Down there where coal is dug is a sort of world apart which one can quite easily go through life without ever hearing about. Probably majority of people would even prefer not to hear about it. Yet it is the absolutely necessary counterpart of our world above. Practically everything we do, from eating an ice to crossing the Atlantic, and from baking a loaf to writing a novel, involves the use of coal, directly or indirectly. For all the arts of peace coal is needed; if war breaks out it is needed all the more. In time of revolution the miner must go on working or the revolution must stop, for revolution as much as reaction needs coal. Whatever may be happening on the surface, the hacking and shovelling have got to continue without a pause, or at any rate without pausing for more than a few weeks at the most. In order that Hitler may march the goose-step, that the Pope may denounce Bolshevism, that the cricket crowds may assemble at Lords, that the poets may scratch one another's backs, coal has got to be forthcoming. But on the whole we are not aware of it; we all know that we 'must have coal', but we seldom or never remember what coal-getting involves.


You and I and the editor of the Times Lit. Supp., and the poets and the Archbishop of Canterbury and Comrade X, author of Marxism for Infants--all of us really owe the comparative decency of our lives to poor drudges underground, blackened to the eyes, with their throats full of coal dust, driving their shovels forward with arms and belly muscles of steel".

Foto: "Coal Miner, Harlan County, Kentucky, 1997", Ken Light

October 22, 2010

Los Pulido

Dionisio Pulido y Paula Rangel de Pulido, testigos del nacimiento del Parícutin.

Mira esa nariz de Paula, esa sonrisa franca y abierta, los dientes un poco dislocados hacia adentro, la ceja gruesa, la mata abundante, la piel apergaminada y la alegría inmensa que le descubre el rostro.

Ve esa pose de Dionisio, fotografiado por el berlinés Walter Reuter, esa manera de sentarse a descansar y terminar su cigarro. ¿Será un Faros o un Delicado, versión original? Observa la camisa elegante y limpia, abotonada hasta el cogote, el detalle de la cadena que cuelga. El ademán con que sostiene la herramienta de trabajo contrasta con el estar en cuclillas: el cuerpo descansa, la mano está presta para trabajar de nuevo, para arar esa tierra, también apergaminada y quebrada por el Parícutin.

Olvídate de Juan Rulfo, lee a Dionisio Pulido:
“A las 4 de la tarde, dejé a mi esposa al fuego de la leña cuando noté que una grieta, que se encontraba en uno de los corrales de mi granja, se había abierto y vi que era una clase de grieta que tenía una profundidad solamente de la mitad de un metro. Me fijé alrededor para encender las brasas otra vez cuando sentí un trueno, los árboles temblaban y di vuelta para hablar a Paula; y fue entonces que vi cómo en el agujero la tierra se hinchó y se levantó 2 ó 2.5 metros de alto y una clase de humo o del polvo fino -- gris, como las cenizas -- comenzó a levantarse para arriba en una porción de la grieta que no había visto previamente. Más humo comenzó inmediatamente a levantarse con un chiflido ruidosamente y continuó y había un olor de azufre. Entonces me asusté grandemente e intenté ayudar a la yunta del buey. Fue así que atontado sabía apenas qué hacer o qué pensar y no podía encontrar a mi esposa, o a mi hijo, o a mis animales. Al último vino a mis sentidos y recordé al Señor Sagrado de los Milagros. Grité: "Señor Bendecido de los Milagros, usted me trajo a este mundo".
Entonces miraba en la grieta adonde se levantaba el humo y mi miedo desapareció por primera vez. Me apuré para ver si podía salvar mi familia, mis compañeros y mis bueyes, pero no podía verlos. Pensé que deben haber llevado los bueyes al rancho para el agua. Vi que no había agua en el rancho y pensé que el agua se había ido debido a la grieta. Me asustaron mucho y monté mi yegua a galope a Parícutin donde encontré a mi esposa e hijo y amigos que me esperaban. Estaban asustados por que creyeron que estaba muerto y que nunca me verían otra vez”.
¡Larga vida a Dionisio Pulido, mi único héroe!

Observación: tanto el testimonio de Dionisio Pulido como el acta de nacimiento del volcán hablan de Parícutin en esdrújula, no de Paricutín.

October 21, 2010

Sesshū Tōyō, Leonardo

The mountains and landscapes drawn by Sesshū Tōyō (1420-1506) -- one of the greatest Japanese artists ever -- are so subtile and delicate, that if I had money I would definitely buy one of them.

For me, they look quite similar to the rocky background of the Mona Lisa (finished around 1506, when Sesshū Tōyō passed away) and other Leonardo's paintings. This is interesting, since Leonardo was one of the first painters who portraited a real person in front of a fake landscape. Not only that, but he was a pioneer using the aerial perspective. Sesshū Tōyō painted little villages, Leonardo just a bridge.

I was doing some research about this, when I learned that some specialists in Chinese art such as Yukio Yashiro had suggested already the possibility of some influence from China. That would be a hint to check out (like Egyptians influencing the old Greeks), but who knows...

October 20, 2010

Ask, you never know

Three weeks ago, I was leaving the subway in Munich when I saw a guy working on the floor. He had dropped a considerable amount of pinkish painting on the sidewalk and was covering it with some thick papers. Nobody cared about him, everybody was just on their usual hectic state of legs.

A Berlin scene crossed my mind: the artistic action of this summer at Rosenthaler Platz: some artists dropped big amounts of painting on the streets. Cars and bikes later dispersed it, creating a beautiful crossing.

I asked the Munich guy: "Is this art or an accident?". He looked back at me, sort of unsure. Was it a joke or was I making fun of him? "An accident", he said shyly. I wanted to tell him: "Well, stop all the cleaning and leave it like that, let the people, bikes and dogs transform it into art". But he was not listening anymore.

Last night I passed in front of that corner again. Fou! The painting was still there. So I stopped and made a picture. Voilà the difference between Berlin and Munich.

* * *

I was also curious about the people working in these buildings in the Thalkirchner Strasse, in Munich. I had got used to the table dance right in front of the catholic church in Mehringdamm (Berlin), but this Munich mix was much more interesting, since it is nothing less than the Pigalle: "Un p'tit jet d'eau, une station de métro, entourée de bistrots, Pigalle...", said once Georges Ulmer. But in the Munich version of Pigalle you have no fountains, no bistros, no subway... but a church.

Wikipedia instructs you that the Freikatholische Kirche was founded when a Brazilian bishop excommunicated the Pope due to his collaborationism with the Nazis. The highlight of the Wikipage is the last line: "In September 1972, Bishop Ungerer rented a shop for a 'shop church', which became the Free Catholic Shop Church at 25 Thalkirchner Strasse in Munich, as was the fashion in some big towns at that time".

I wonder if this church is responsible for the Pigalle and if there is also some collaborationism with the neighbors.

Ask, you never know... Specially in Munich.


October 18, 2010

Bentley, Mini, Maxim Gorki Theater

Today I went to the Hitler exhibition (it was so full, that it looks like shopping in December) and while I was passing in front of the Gorki Theater I thought of Bentley and Mini.

October 17, 2010

Marilyn, Obama

Today's cover of NYT Magazine worries of Obama's education. It reminded me of this famous picture of Marilyn Monroe, educating herself. Marilyn is reading a book, Obama is the book. She looks happy and selbstbewusst, he is worried.

October 14, 2010

Strange discoveries: dots & ñ

Branding usually do not use periods at the end of the trademark. I was very surprised when I discovered that Benetton uses a dot at the end of its name, something which I hadn't seen till recently.

There is another English brand which also uses a dot: Eat. But I don't know any other.

Adenda (March 2013):

I just noticed that USUS also adds a dot at the end of the brandname.

* * *

Spanish letter "ñ" is not an "n" with an accent circumflex. Ñ developed as a sign to represent a doble "nn" in Latin words, such as anno, which became [en el] año.

I was impressed when I found the word Año in a German text in the main church of Spandau "bei Berlin" going back to the 17th Century.

October 13, 2010

How to carry heads

Giovanni Battista Cima da Conegliano, David and Jonathan (1505-1510)

Anonymous, Decapitated man with bloody knife, holding his head (ca. 1875) (via Daniel)

Gustav Doré, Bertran de Born displaying his head (1890)

Andreas H. Ilse & Vera Lehndorff, Veruschka as Salomé (1960s)

October 12, 2010

Solving a "mistery"

Die Zeit published a short interview I did to a "parrot behavior consultant". She pointed out to me that parrots were brought from Africa to Rome to be traded 2000 years ago. Allegedly, some species were more valued than slaves.

I had to reorganize the information I had on parrots, since till then I had had the idea that they were original from the Americas and Africa. But no.

This was a good hint for solving the "puzzle" of Fra Angelico's parrot-angels, which we thought were products entirely of his imagination. But again, no. Parrots were already known in Europe. It might well had been that Fra Angelico was the first one to paint such beautiful wings of angels. 

In his later days, young Piero della Francesca painted his famous Baptism of Christ (1448-1450), in which he depicts three winged angels. This is quite interesting, since one of the wings is in the parrot tradition of Fra Angelico: green, pink, blue. Maybe he did it on purpose as a wink to him, since the painting refers to the Council of Florence, where Fra Angelico had lived. The wing of the third angel is completely blue, but is transparent, so that it is possible to see the landscape through it.

The lenticular clouds are really great. These guys were such good observers of the sky!

October 11, 2010

Karaoke reloaded

These guys asked me for material and made a clip of the Ice, Ice, Baby song at the Mauerpark some days ago. It gives a more accurate impression of the Sunday karaoke.

October 9, 2010

Parisian chairs: Doisneau, Testino

Jeux de société, Rue Lacépède (1966)

Natalia Vodianova, Hôtel de Crillon? (Vogue, 2006)

October 8, 2010

Be careful, Mr Hitchcock!

Unfortunately, I don't know the story behind this clip, but is really good! Seems like made on purpose...

October 7, 2010

¡Vargas Llosa!

Finally the Swedish Academia shows some common sense and gives the Nobel Prize to a great author, Mario Vargas Llosa. He is, no doubt about it, the best intellectual we have in Spanish language. So, if you haven't read it, hurry up.

Long live Vargas Llosa, a true member of the liberal tradition and a fighter for democracy and social justice, who has also a big passion for literature and for our Spanish language. Tiger as he is, he is married to a beautiful woman, Patricia.

You might want to check an interview by Revista Ñ, and also my review of a lecture/booklet on Literature and Politics he gave in my city some years ago, both en español.

October 6, 2010

The Vespa kiss

For some weeks I had been looking for a very nice shot by Robert Doisneau online, but I just could not find it [addenda: this might be the only one]. In my memory, it was a couple sitting on a Vespa kissing each other "through" the helmets. Something very similar to this one, also by Doisneau, called Le baiser blotto (1950):

Last week, I was walking in the Schellingstrasse in Munich. It was already dark, there were no cars at all, just very few people, and I was thinking of Doisneau and some pictures I would like to do. I was sure that I had seen the Vespa version of the Baiser blotto somewhere, but I also started to suspect that it  might well had been a product of my own imagination. In any case, I was hoping to be able to make such a shot.

And life surprises you always. When I was about to cross the street, red light. I stopped. In that very moment, being the street completely empty, a Vespa stopped next to me as well, on my left. The girl on the back knock with the open palm of her hand on the helmet of her boyfriend. He turned on his left.

And they kissed through the helmets!

It was like a gift for me. And an irony, since I was carrying no camera with me that night. The only thing I could do was to stay there, enjoy the moment, be a witness of their cute kiss and love. I felt like in Budapest and decided to save the moment for me.

But then I became, of course, even more obsessed with the Vespa kiss. I could just find it on a book and scanned it: "Helmeted kisses" (1966).

And so I realized that it was very different to what I had in mind. This shot has nothing to do with the Baiser blotto. Here, you cannot see the Vespa, which was a product of my imagination. And the girl is not sitting, but she just stepped down of the bike to kiss her boyfriend goodbye, you notice that since they are kissing on their cheeks and on the plural form of the pic's title, since most French people kiss on both cheeks. And they are not in the street, but in a parking lot.

My Vespa kiss was a better shot! Next time.

Update July 2012: I found this pic by Ruslan Lobanov.