Wednesday, May 24, 2023

"Spain Welcomes Springtime With ‘Maya’ Girls"

"The festivity of the Maya comes from pagan rites and dates from the medieval age, appearing in ancient documents. It takes place every year in the beginning of May and celebrates the beginning of the spring. 

Girls between 7 and 11 years old are chosen as “Maya” and should sit still, serious and quiet for a couple of hours in altars on the street decorated with flowers and plants and afterwards they walk to the church with their family where they attend a ceremony. 

(All photos by Daniel Ochoa de Olza/AP Photo)" Source here.


Sunday, May 21, 2023

"Demand for Garraf's international schools is growing..."

News video of the school where my wife Paula teaches.

(Of course, not all the students/families there are "foreigners" because there's plenty of local Catalan/Spanish kids too.)

"These days the educational centers are already thinking about the pre-registration periods for the next school year starting in September, including the international schools in the region. These are private centers that are noticing a notable increase in demand, from families who want to send their children to school in an educational system different from the one designed by the Catalan administration. The arrival of new foreign families in Garraf is one of the factors that explain this increase."

Sunday, May 14, 2023

"A cursed woman:" Jordi Corominas i Julián: Clotilde Cerdà en Mujeres Malditas

Jordi Corominas i Julián: Clotilde Cerdà en Mujeres Malditas: "A  biography of Clotilde Cerdà, multifaceted and [relatively] unknown." You can listen to it at the link above.

"Clotilde Cerdà (1861-1926) was a child prodigy, world-famous harpist, anti-slavery activist and defender of women's rights. Everything indicates that the author of the "Ensanche", Ildefons Cerdà, was not her biological father."

Saturday, May 6, 2023

Let them read

The Second Spanish Republic led pedagogical missions to 7,000 towns and villages, creating 5,522 libraries with more than 600,000 books.

Monday, May 1, 2023

DRAGON: Alejandra Pizarnik / ‘I write against fear’

DRAGON: Alejandra Pizarnik / ‘I write against fear’: Alejandra Pizarnik Alejandra Pizarnik: ‘I write against fear’ Fifty years after she took her own life at age 36, Argentina pays tribute to ...

Saturday, April 15, 2023

"Cubism was born in Africa" – Pablo Picasso


On April 8, 1973, Pablo Picasso put down the brush for the last time. 50 years later, the Spanish painter leaves behind an abundant body of work, rich in tens of thousands of paintings, engravings,...

In the early 1900s, in Europe, the era of colonial expansion was in full swing and tribal art still interested only avant-gardists such as Henri Matisse or André Derain, founders of Fauvism. Before being caught up in African know-how, Picasso first set out to discover Catalan primitive art. 

He made "a journey to the depths of Catalonia, where he discovered a medieval Iberian creation that strongly affected his technique," says Juliette Pozzo, in charge of Pablo Picasso's personal collection at the Musée national Picasso-Paris...

Negro art? Don't know! ", quipped Pablo Picasso to an art critic in 1920, in his own tone without laughter. The Iberian artist, born in 1881 in Malaga, Spain, nevertheless collected African, Oceanic, Hispanic and more broadly, extra-Western art objects. This is in any case what testifies the finds in his private collection and the images of his workshops, full of statuettes, tools, ornaments, masks, totems ...

Picasso was an experimental painter, both one of the most acclaimed and the most criticized of modern art, "for his ultra misogynistic side and very violent towards women," says Olivia Marsaud, head of visual arts at the French Institute of Senegal. 

A little prodigy of drawing from the age of 14 who "could have been one of the greatest classical artists of the twentieth century," says Gilles Plazy, one of his biographers."

Read more from source here.

Sunday, April 9, 2023

From "A Daily Dose of Muñoz Molina..."

"In the early seventies, when people of my generation were starting [senior high school], we were forced to choose between science and letters.

That poverty [of choice] forever impoverished our culture and therefore our understanding of reality.

In our ignorant adolescence the budding literates had infected us from indifference to the scientific sages practiced by the vast majority of the highlights of humankind.

In the letters was fantasy, imagination, sensitivity, the spirit of rebellion; in the sciences, the methodical, the rigid, the roman, the proseic of a reality that any slightly sensitive person would find less interesting than the elevated world of arts, books and the music.

Just as I miss the music education I did not have, I also regret that the low quality of scientific education I received and then the sharp and absurd separation between sciences and letters do not allow me now to understand more deeply a culture without which it is not possible to understand the reality of things nor adopt an attitude of rationality in life.

Separated from each other, the two cultures of C. P. Snow are lost to eachother in their own dead end alleys."

(A. Muñoz Molina, “The Imagination of the Real”, Mercury n. 133, September 2013)

Sunday, March 26, 2023

"More allergies, more jellyfish in the sea, less 'pata negra' ham..."


"It is estimated that by 2050 half of the beaches on the Mediterranean coast will have disappeared.

The rise in sea level already threatens the El Maresme railway line, the most used in Catalonia..."

Read more from source at Spain News here.

Sunday, March 19, 2023

"Transforming broken skateboards into drinkable water:" Barcelona meets Africa

Video focusing on the volunteer work of John French, an Australian artist (and friend of mine) living in Barcelona. MOSS, the skating group organisation he leads is helping to create new water resources for townspeople in Swaziland/Eswatini, Africa.

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

"The women ham carvers of Spain" – #InternationalWomensDay

[Raquel Acosta is one of Spain's most high-profile carvers (Credit: Josu Acosta)]

 "Carving legs of Iberian ham in bars, restaurants and at events has traditionally been a man's job. Now, a new generation of women is taking their place at the slicing table."

(From personal experience, I can say this carving is very difficult to do...)

Jill Petzinger's article for BBC Travel here.

Monday, March 6, 2023

The "reading" of minds (Disturbing? Wonderful? AI is certainly significant...)

On Twitter, the explanation from Siqi Chen@blader:
Mar 3
"okay so AI can literally read our minds now. a team from osaka was able to reconstruct visual images from mri scan data using stable diffusion. first row is the image presented to the test subject, second row is the reconstructed image from mri data. wild. "

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

"Top 10 neglected books about the Spanish Civil War"


 The Guardian recently published an article by Sarah Watling with [arguably] lesser-known books about the Spanish Civil War that are available in English. 

Literary Rambles blog recommends the ones by Rukeyser, Cercas, Laforet and Rodoreda.

Friday, February 24, 2023

"Why Read Homage to Catalonia By George Orwell? A Short Review"


Rightly describing George Orwell as "one of the great commentators of his own era." Personally, I'd go further and say of any era in the English language. 

Orwell had an ability to get to the visceral in a way that few have. Shakespeare regularly did. James Baldwin also did.

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

"Grabbing Granados" – My latest article for Catalonia Today magazine

[This article* was first published in Catalonia Today magazine, Feb. 2023.]

The Barcelona street named after Granados. ANDREU PUIG.

A huge boat is sinking in The English Channel. A man is clinging on to the side of a tiny raft, only big enough for one woman to kneel on. Soon, both drown in sight of other passengers.

According to witness Daniel Sargent, this is what happened to Catalan composer and pianist Enric Granados i Campiña and his wife Amparo Gal, who was too heavy to get into a lifeboat. Granados apparently refused to leave her alone in the sea and tragically on March 24, 1916 their six children became orphans.

In this ill-fated transatlantic crossing, returning from a tour, the boat they’d been on (the French-flagged Sussex) was mistaken for an enemy minelayer craft and torpedoed and sunk by the Germans. Only days earlier Granados had been playing piano in the White House for US President Woodrow Wilson.

Born in Lleida in 1867 and the son of a colonel (originally from Spanish Cuba) and a Galician mother, at the age of 10 he began to study music and gave public concerts in his hometown (though his first major recital was in 1890, when he was 23 years old.) Still a child, he moved to Barcelona and was enrolled at the Escolania de la Merced.

As is so often the case though with historical figures, myths and disagreement surround important areas of Granados’ life. The financial impact of his father’s premature death at just 57 is unclear but it seems likely that his mother received the correct widow’s military pension and kept the wolves from the door in this way.

What is known is that Enric got a job playing piano for five hours a day at the Café de las Delicias, but around the time he moved his ivory tinkling gig to the Café Filipino, the Catalan impresario Eduardo Condé was also funding him to a very pretty tune as music teacher of his children.

In fact, many of the best Catalan pianists of recent times came out of the music academy in Barcelona that bore Granados’ name. The institution became a centre for a theoretical-practical method for piano pedals that Granados had developed from the teachings he’d held onto from living in Paris two years before.

His masterpiece as a composer is the suite for piano “Goyescas” (1912-14) inspired by works of the Spanish painter Francisco de Goya. Partially first performed at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York, it helped lead to his White House triumph. Despite these kinds of success, Granados went on to suffer from extreme stage fright later in his performing life, according to one source, even begging that he not be forced to play.

I wanted to know more about this man with the fruity name, his name having been given to one of my favourite streets in the Catalan capital. With only one slow lane of traffic, it’s a gently sloping oasis of near-calm and almost-quiet when all around is everything but that, lined with superb restaurants and quaint little speciality shops or delis at both ends.

I grab any opportunity to walk up or down this street. Sometimes I go out of my way to be on it, a part of it, while I think about the man too these days.

[*Most likely this will be my final piece for Catalonia Today magazine. Apparently for economic reasons, it has been cut in half: down to just 32 pages. This means independent journalists who are not directly employed have been also cut. I wrote for them between 2008 – 2023 and would like to thanks all those involved in the production of the publication.]

Saturday, February 4, 2023

"High power prices taking extra toll on sick Spaniards"

[Pic: Reuters: Nacho Doce]

"Nearly 4 per cent of Spanish households in the fourth income decile — a segment typically viewed as middle class — have spent more than half of their income on energy since the rise in prices last year, an Oxfam survey has found."

Read more from ABC (Australia) here.

Sunday, January 29, 2023

La mà que va signar el paper* (The Hand That Signed The Paper) – A poem by Dylan Thomas

 (*Translated into Catalan below with Antoni Cardona)

La mà que va signar el paper va enderrocar una ciutat;

Cinc dits sobirans van posar taxes a l’alè,

Van duplicar els morts a la terra i van partir pel mig un país;

Aquests cinc reis van fer que morís un rei

La poderosa mà porta a una espatlla inclinada,

Les articulacions dels dits estan comprimides amb guix;

La ploma d’oca ha posat fi a l’assassinat

Que posa fi a la conversa


La mà que va signar el tractat va generar una febrada, un excitació

I va créixer la fam, i van venir llagostes;

És gran la mà que manté domini sobre

L’home mitjançant un nom gargotejat

Els cinc reis compten els morts però no suavitzen 

La crosta de la ferida ni fan copets al front;

Una mà governa la pietat i una mà governa el cel;

Les mans no tenen llàgrimes per vessar.

Original in English:

The hand that signed the paper felled a city;
Five sovereign fingers taxed the breath,
Doubled the globe of dead and halved a country;
These five kings did a king to death.

The mighty hand leads to a sloping shoulder,
The finger joints are cramped with chalk;
A goose’s quill has put an end to murder
That put an end to talk.

The hand that signed the treaty bred a fever,
And famine grew, and locusts came;
Great is the hand that holds dominion over
Man by a scribbled name.

The five kings count the dead but do not soften
The crusted wound nor pat the brow;
A hand rules pity as a hand rules heaven;
Hands have no tears to flow.

Sunday, January 22, 2023

"Christmessi" – My latest opinion column for Catalonia Today magazine

Messi arives in Argentina with the World Cup. EFE.

[This article was first published in Catalonia Today magazine, January 2023.]

Is the legend now complete? Is it a case of all praise to The Great One, Lionel Messi, the Messiah of Argentina, Saviour of Rosario and FIFA-family favourite?

On the whole it seems so, but like so many public figures, this 35 year old (who spent all his crucial teenage years at La Masia, the Barcelona Football Club youth academy) sharply divides opinion. Even within me.

On the one hand, he’s undoubtedly the most skilled footballer I’ve ever seen. I was lucky enough to watch him play at the Camp Nou stadium in the King’s Cup final of 2013. He hit the crossbar with a penalty but (unlike on television) what I noticed more than anything else was that every pass, run and movement he made was at least 20 percent faster than anyone else. And just as throughout the world cup tournament, he was also more accurate than any other player on the pitch.

Every time I’ve watched this wizard play I’ve seen something new to admire about his work. In the semi final against Croatia he set up a goal with an opponent leaning all over his 1.69 metres, as he controlled the ball and shifted position several times. Shrugging his much bigger pursuer off, Messi’s strength and balance in those vital seconds was a rare, rare thing. It meant his team was able to get into the final and go on to win the damn thing.

I was a good young footballer myself and considered trying to shoot for a career in the sport (or in cricket) so the talents and longevity of a supreme athlete like Messi are impossible for me to dismiss. What disturbs me is that while Messi has always been a relatively “clean” sportsman on the field – well known for not fake ’diving’ to get a free kick, for example – his record off the field deserves plenty of criticism.

For me, it’s hard to stomach his tax evasion of more than four million euros: using offshore and shell companies in Belize, Uruguay and Panama. In 2022 alone, his income has been put at 41 million US dollars. His various acts of philanthropy during a decade and a half career can’t take away from the argument that these high-profile guys need to be a role model as a citizen and celebrity.

“The Messi Brand” has Adidas as its main corporate sponsor. The same Adidas that has a lengthy history of human rights abuses against its workers and parts suppliers. Messi himself would surely know but has chosen to ignore this.

The fact that he, with the major help of his teammates and support staff, has given countless hours of pleasure, and even joy, to millions of people has to be considered, though. With a round ball on an expanse of turf, Messi’s been an entertainer like no other. He’s generally avoided Cristiano Ronaldo’s vain parading or the unethical cheating and self-abuse of Maradona.

In the end, I’d consider lifting the world cup as a fitting way to recognise Messi’s otherworldly ability. I just can’t help also wishing that our heroes were more heroic when they step out of the arena.