February 27, 2011

Backs: Rodin, Klimt, Bernhard, Qu Lei

Auguste Rodin, Danaid

Gustav Klimt, Study

Ruth Bernhard, At the pool

Qu Lei Lei, Femme assise

February 24, 2011

"Do I count as a woman?"

Audrey Hepburn first appeared in a feature movie as a KLM stewardess in Nederlands in zeven lessen. It was 1948 and she was just 18 years old. You can watch the complete movie online or the clip here, where she appears.

Three years later she had her second appearance, also very short, is as a cigar girl in Laughter in Paradise, where she brilliantly asked: "Do I count as a woman?"...

In 1954 she got her first Oscar for Roman Holiday. It is impossible to embed the whole clip with Gary Cooper announcing the nominees from Mexico, which is really funny, but at least you it is possible to add her speech-clip here.

February 23, 2011

On British irony

"(...) and I'm sure I'm not an innellekchewl, at least, as a fella like you might think of one..."

"Yes, I'm sure you're not", murmured Howard. He found that his [British] accent caused a delayed reaction in certain Americans. It was sometimes the next day before they realized how rude he had been to them.

Zadie Smith, On Beauty, 116

La Rosa

Last night I was discussing with some friends a Jean Kilbourne video, where she criticizes the social pressure upon women due to imposed aesthetical categories.

I woke up thinking of La Rosa. It is a short story published in the "Gazette von San Vito" by a little girl of Trieste, Monica Favaretto, in May 1973. Claudio Magris discovered it and published it in his marvelous book Danube:
La Rosa era felice. Andava d'accordo con gli altri fiori. Un giorno, la Rosa si senti appasita e stava per morire. Vide un fiori di carta e gli disse:

- Che bella rosa sei!
- Mai io sono un fiore di carta.
- Ma sai che sto per morire?

La Rosa era morta e non parló più.

A rough translation to English:
The Rose was happy. She got on well with all the other flowers. One day the Rose felt that she was wilting and about to die. She saw a paper flower and said to her:

- ¡What a lovely rose you are!’
- But I am a paper flower. 
– But don’t you realize I am dying? 

The Rose was already dead and spoke no more.

 Foto: Isabeli Fontana by Tom Munro (2008)

February 21, 2011

Zadie Smith dixit

I finally started reading "On Beauty", an amazing novel by cute Zadie Smith. Did more than 100 pages in one seating, and just cannot stop reading it further. It is witty and wise, the perfect combination.

"Time is how you spend your love".

"Considering things too much, all the time, was the definition of who he was".

"It is easy to mistake a woman for a philosophy..."

"'Too much recording -- try living', she suggested softly".

Foto: Vivian Maier

February 20, 2011

"Everything is Illuminated" Reloaded

There is this Russian guy using the nickname Nikolai Krestinsky (this was the real Nikolai, a serious troskyst), who got very inspired in May 2005 and wrote two awesome book reviews on (American!) Amazon. I wonder if JonFen ever read them. Don't hesitate to check them up!

"When i first come to America, my english did cause me problems. In Soviet Russia i was strong teacher, my english i know is the best in all of Petropavlovsk. My brother, Mikhail, he say to me, "Nikolai you go to America, they make you rich like czar, take many woman as lover, kill many bear". My brother, he is very wise, is greatest toymaker in all of Russia. So next day i wake up, sell my house, say goodbye to wife and children, and go to America to become millionaire. Then in America, I go to job interview and they say to me "Nikolai, you are not for the job here, you are not the skills we need, your english is poor like child". I take that man and smash his table, i say "someday i will be greatest man in all of country, your children will wish me their father!". That day my anger is best of me. It is then i know i must learn better english, so i buy book "English Grammer it is for Dummies" by Mr.Woods. Now i am perfect english grammer! I write letter to Mikhail, he write back "Nikolai, your english is like a god, you will be millionaire soon! all of Petropavlovsk is proud for you! good luck brother! please send letter when you are president or maybe even czar! Hahaha! also, your wife is killed by bear". So i say thanks to Mr.Woods for his book! When i am czar your family will be spared! Hahahaha! (is joke)". 

"I wish this book i had when i was living in Russia. My wife, she is worst cook in all of Petropavlovsk! Day after day it is borsk for breakfast, borsk for lunch, borsk for dinner! is always same thing! i say to her "Svetlana, man can not live on borsk alone!" is too much to ask for occasional bear meat pie or goat and beet stew? I work all day long in barrel factory, and come home so hungry i could eat a thousand kilos of boar meat! when we are first married she is greatest bear hunter in all of Petropavlovsk, she kill so many bear, in village they call her Lobanov-Rostovsky which loosely translates to "the killer of many bearcubs who feels no sadness for their mothers". My brother Mikhail, he is very wise, he says woman is most beautiful when she is dragging bear corpse into home. Long ago she is very attractive woman, built like American actress Rosie O'Donnel, years later she is all bones and skin from too much borsk. It is unpleasant to have relations. Perhaps if she have "Betty Crocker pictures of food book" she would cook me a "creamy tuna casserole", then maybe i not leave her in russia with children and come to America, and she would not be killed by bear! Hahaha! Alas, is not possible to go backwards in time to deliver cookbook. Thank you Dr.Crocker, your food it is delicious, but you are too late to save my wife from bear". 

February 19, 2011

Absurdities of this week in Germany


The Minister of Defense "wrote" his Ph.D. thesis in a time span of 7 years, while raising up his children, working at the Senate and leading his busy social life with his barbie-wife (the sort of fantasies which Putin fancies). Is it possible to do that? If you have done a serious dissertation, you know it is impossible. So, he must had hired some ghostwriter. 

The funny thing is that that guy either wanted to fuck him up or was bored or asked somebody else to do the job. And with the magical help of copy&paste they managed to sort out information and put it together and Guttenberg got his degree. He obviously does not deserve it, nor his ghostwriter. 

The stupid thing is that this sort of idiots are damaging the effort put by us, normal people without barbie-girls, noble titles, "amazing" careers, false smiles who have been working hard on our dissertations.

In Germany, if you use a Dr. title not having it, it is a criminal offense which might lead you to jail. Hopefully some justice is going to be given to this cheater.


In Dresden it is allowed to organize demonstrations, even if you are a Neonazi. You name it, do the bureaucracy, and the police will even escort you. What is forbidden though is to impede an official demonstration.

So, last weekend, Neonazis tried to demonstrate in Dresden to "commemorate" the bombardments by the Allies (Sebald's reflection on this issue is a must!). And, of course, people (mostly extreme-leftists, but not only) went out to complain. And they were kicked by the police, violence escalated, the demonstration was postponed to this weekend, and this weekend it got just worse with the police spreading water in the worst moment of the winter and the antinazis burning up barricades. Ironically, the Neonazis behave peacefully.

Sometimes, democracy sucks! (But Germans have thought about it in advance, as always, and they draw a difference between Gerechtigkeit and Justiz).


Which reminds me of the Berlin Wall memorial I have to pass in front of every time when I go to the library. It is a sign of tyranny and oppression, but in order to maintain the historic conscience, it has been undergoing a very long and careful restoration.

Isn't it spooky? Concentration camps must be restored as well. It makes sense if you analyze it in cold blood, but it shakes me every time I see the works going on taking care of the Wall.


The Berlinale is finishing tomorrow. The media, dull as it is, focused on "hot news", as for instance Madonna attending the Berlinale or "True Grit", by the Coen brothers. R met by chance Madonna in a club, and danced next to her (not really with her, since she was with her guy), and the only thing he could tell me is how bad she looks without Photoshop & Co.

I did not like "True Grit" (way to slow, unreal character, but given, great actors). My favorite movies by far were "King's Speech" and "Dernier étage gauche gauche", a great French comedy about the Arab (but it could had been African) immigration to Paris, perfect for these days.

Real love

In La llama doble, Octavio Paz, partially elaborating on L'amour et l'Occident, a book by Denis de Rougemont., draws a history of love One important idea of Paz is that "real love" began in the 12th Century, in Provençe, France.

At that time, Provençe (together with Aquitania, the land of my ancestors) constituted a wider region called Occitania. This is important because the Occitan language is responsible for developing the "courtly love" (fin'amor), invented by the troubadours.

According to Paz (and at some extent to de Rougemont, whose work I am not familiar with), "real love" began thanks to the troubadours, since they were the first ones who understood "woman" as a being equal to man. Before them, women were taken as inferior, merely as receptors of men, not as equivalents. This idea succeeded and started spreading around Europe in the following centuries.

I was looking forward to attend a concert (basically this one), but it turned out to be very different to what I was expecting. Honestly, it was bad and boring, and not as interesting as I was expecting it to be.

February 15, 2011

"Homage to My Hips", by Lucille Clifton

these hips are big hips.
they need space to
move around in.
they don’t fit into little
petty places. these hips
are free hips.
they don’t like to be held back.
these hips have never been enslaved,
they go where they want to go
they do what they want to do.
these hips are mighty hips.
these hips are magic hips.
i have known them
to put a spell on a man and
spin him like a top

Tables: Abbas, Richard Kalvar

Rural table by Abbas, Oapan (Mexico)

Urban tables by Richard Kalvar, Paris

Static poses: athletes, models

Eadward Muybridge, Athletes

SEmotion Studio, Models

February 12, 2011

Guess face: Abbas, Enrique G de la G, Yulia Gorodinski

Abbas, Woman with Koran (19??)

Enrique G de la G, Cortázar en Cali (2009)

Yulia Gorodinski, Self portrait (2011)

Abbas is one of the few photographers who has dealt with religious issues. He had sort of an illumination when he traveled to Mexico in the 1980s and stayed in Oapan. After that project, he published an amazing book, which had been unavailable for almost two decades, but now you can find most of the images online (do not know how long this link will work, it is not mine).

I heard about Yulia Gorodinski a few days ago for the first time and fall in love immediately with her (work). She is a young Israeli from Tel Aviv, who studied History and English Literature at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and is shooting self portraits in the cutest possible way. Her pattern and hue is nostalgic, and I love that, which is in my case very significant, since I rather prefer b/w photography. Her colors remind me of William Eggleston. Yulia shows her interest for fashion and naked body, for daily places in unconventional situations and some shoots remind me of Leni Riefenstahl.

This sosias (forget about the picture in the middle) is absolutely amazing: two women representing the best of their cultures: pop music (Blondie?) and the Koran, one in a trendy swimsuit, the other one in her "Muslim dress". The picture of Abbas shows rather cold colors with a big, red spot in the center; the balance is obtained due to the wood on her lap and the back wall. On the other hand, Yulia is repeating this red spot to catch your attention, but the balance between warm (soil) and cold colors  (sky) is just perfect.

Leni Riefenstahl, Yulia Gorodinski

Disclaimer: this post is NOT a political issue, it presents exclusively an aesthetic sosias

 Leni Riefenstahl, Olympia (1936)

Yulia Gorodinski, Self portrait (2010)

February 10, 2011

Lujos urbanos del narco

Letras Libres acaba de publicar una nota de mi autoría en el 'Blog de la redacción', donde expongo cómo el narco mexicano se ha vuelto 'urbanizado'. La idea salió a partir de unas investigaciones que hizo la fiscalía de Stuttgart en la empresa Heckler & Koch, productoras de las armas más sofisticadas en el mundo y análogas a los Rolls Royce.

Aquí, El Barbie con su camiseta de polo Ralph Lauren.

February 9, 2011

Submerged self portrait: Francesca Woodman, Yulia Gorodinski

Two very young amazing photographers who work with self portraits!

Untitled - Boulder, Colorado (1972)
Francesca Woodman committed suicide at age of 22 since nobody recognized her talent

 Suffering in silence (2011)
Yulia Gorodinski is an amazing (recognized) talent from Israel aged 26

Shadowy self portrait: Lee Friedlander, Vivian Maier

Lee Friedlander, New York (1966)

Vivian Maier, Untitled (?)

Dandy: Count d'Orsay, Mr Peanut, Eustace Tilley

Count d'Orsay by the 11th edition of Encyclopedia Britannica (1834)

Mr. Peanut by Antonio Gentile (1916)

Eustace Tilley by Rea Irvin, observing a butterfly ::  First cover and mascot of the New Yorker (1925)

February 8, 2011

Berlin Playmobil

A great film called "Little Big Berlin" by Philipp Beuter using miniature faking technique

Spinoza's ring

The Portuguese surname "Spinoza" means "thorny". Beauty is thorny, think of a rose. That is why Baruch de Spinoza designed this seal ring with his initials on the top, a thorny rose in the middle and the Latin word: "Caute" ("Beware"), everything surrounded by 70 points. He used it to close his letters with wax seals.

Girls -- memories, nostalgia, emotions -- are thorny roses. Caute! Sometimes you do not want to grasp them, they wound.

Mecano translated this in a musical language.

February 7, 2011


Arturo Rivera posted this Beso on his Facebook, but I do not know the name of the photographer

Stefan Brüggeman, Stop thinking (2002)

February 5, 2011

On fat exes

The say goes: "Nobody is as ugly as in their passport picture, and nobody is as beautiful as in their Facebook photo".

I have been considering for a few weeks now to abandon Facebook. There are, I lie to myself, many reasons for staying. Facebook has not only a sense of connectedness, but may also have a strong impact on the mood.

There is a suggesting article on Slate called "Is Facebook making us sad?". The author, Libby Copeland, writes:
The human habit of overestimating other people's happiness is nothing new, of course. Jordan points to a quote by Montesquieu: "If we only wanted to be happy it would be easy; but we want to be happier than other people, which is almost always difficult, since we think them happier than they are." But social networking may be making this tendency worse.

At the end he goes:
You will never be as consistently happy as your Facebook friends, because nobody is that happy. So remember Montesquieu, and, if you're feeling particularly down, use Facebook for its most exalted purpose: finding fat exes.

Do NOT try to find fat exes! I found this:

 A perverse premonition was reading Susan Sontag last night. I swear she was whispering in my ear: "It is a nostalgic time right now, and photographs actively promote nostalgia". Beware!

February 4, 2011

Arab camels

I know it is a scandal to post a paragraph by Borges in English, but I will do it this time as an exception. It is about Koran, camels and Arabs. I think that it has a clear connection with this post.

"A few days ago, I discovered a curious confirmation of the way in which what is truly native can and often does dispense with local color; I found this confirmation in Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Gibbon observes that in the Arab book par excellence, the Koran, there are no camels; I believe that if there were ever any doubt as to the authenticity of the Koran, this lack of camels would suffice to prove that it is Arab. It was written by Mohammed, and Mohammed, as an Arab, had no reason to know that camels were particularly Arab; they were, for him, a part of reality, and he had no reason to single them out, while the first thing a forger, a tourist, or an Arab nationalist would do is bring on the camels, whole caravans of camels on every page; but Mohammed, as an Arab, was unconcerned; he knew he could be Arab without camels.

The Argentine Writer and Tradition (1951)
Foto: George Steinmetz for National Geographic

Robert Louis Stevenson dixit

"For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move; to feel the needs and hitches of our life more nearly; to come down off this feather-bed of civilisation, and find the globe granite underfoot and strewn with cutting flints".

February 3, 2011

Foto now :: Polaroid, iPhone

Polaroid's SX-70. It won't let you stop. Suddenly you see a picture everywhere you look.

Now you press the red electric button. Whirr... whoosh... and there it is. You watch your picture come to life, growing more vivid, more detailed, until minutes later you have a print as real as life. Soon you're taking rapid-fire shots -- as fast as every 1.5 seconds! -- as you search for new angles or make copies on the spot. The SX-70 becomes like a part of you, as it slips through life effortlessly...

(Advertisement, 1975, quoted by Susan Sontag, On Photography)

February 2, 2011

Helping for the sake of help vs. Paying taxes

Maybe the first part of the title of this post is not correct if you understand what the patronas are actually doing. They are a bunch of women in a village in deep Veracruz (Amatlán de los Reyes) cooking food everyday for around 200 people, mostly beans and rice. They pack it in plastic bags, fill plastic bottles with water and go to the railway. As the train heading north comes, it is full of immigrants from Central and South America countries traveling towards USA. They look like flies messing all around. They have been traveling for days, are exhausted, hungry and thirsty, some have already desisted, some have had accidents and lost limbs under the train wheels, 60% of the women have been or are going to be sexually attacked, some have even died up to this point.

To those who are still on the track, they receive a precious help from the patronas. For free, for the sake of helping other people. Because they are nice to other human beings.

Catalan and Spanish filmmakers Nieves Prieto and Fernando López made out of this story a touching minidocumentary film called El tren de las moscas (14'), which is worth watching. Although it is in Spanish without subtitles, the images of the last minutes talk by themselves. Check out the trailer.

I felt particularly touched, since last night I watched an interview with Carlos Slim, the richest man in the world with 73 billion dollars (as much as Ecuador's GDP). He criticizes Bill Gates and other billionaires for giving half of their money for charity. Charity, he argues, does not help the people, it makes no change in society. What really helps is to grow the own business and pay taxes.

To help or not to help, that is the question.