Friday, March 30, 2007

My Sweet Lord....

AOG, Madrid

I have just read about the predictable hullabaloo around a work of art surrounding a religious theme. The New York Times has included this article which deals with the recent controversy around a figure of Christ made of chocolate.

As is to be expected, the Christian community is up in arms. I can't see what the big deal is. Is it that the model is nude? I thought we were past being offended by nudity, even that of Christ. It must be then that the sculpture is made of chocolate? If so, then they are offended by a material not considered noble enough...but noble enough for what? Wood is nobler than chocolate? Is that what this month's edition of The Noble Materials Gazette says?

For once I side with the Muslim tenet about idolatry and depicting images of God so as to not promote it. I then began to think that perhaps they don't like the idea of an image of Christ which can be eaten. Has anyone heard about "this is my blood, drink from it, this is my body..."? I find it hard to understand what the controversy is about. If something offends you, avert your gaze. Or as they say, "if you don't like the idea of an abortion, don't have one!"

I have found a link to the artist's page, Cosimo Cavallero, and I find nothing offensive there. At least not offensive to me, and I am very easy to offend. Just like anyone else. I am, however, not very religious. Perhaps the only image on his website which I might find offensive is that of a room which has been covered in cheese spray. I think it is offensive because I feel for the poor woman who might have to clean the room one day, or for the poor curator who will have to look after the piece.

Nonetheless, it would appear like the Christian faith is quite bored and has little else to do than to be offended every other day because of one thing or another.

I'm sorry, have we run out of poor people to feed or sick people to bring succour to? I think some of these Christians have too much time on their hands if all they can do is set up campaigns to inform the world about how offended they are by things.

Personally, I find the sculpture to be quite beautiful. Even more so precisely because of the medium used. It is a new approach to an old theme. Beautiful in many ways. If I ever see it in person, I'm sure I'll add other adjectives to the work of art.

A few days ago, in Spain, there blew up a controversy regarding a few images which were deemed sacrilegious by the Catholic community. They depicted images of naked saints, nuns, and erect images of Christ. Part of the controversy is that public money was used to finance the project. Many religious people saw them as lewd. I leave to each viewer the responsibility of making up his/her own mind. I think it is another form of artistic expression and that public money is usually put to worse use. For example to line the pockets of local officials now and then (if you have been following the news about corruption in Spain, you know about local officials being bribed by construction companies to allow the turning of protected forests and beaches into construction sites, amongst other petty- though major- crimes).

As I see them, they merely depict the physical and human side of these figures. I understand that to see an image of Christ with an erection must be hard to bear at first. And yet, I can also see how it would help to humanize him by making Christ into a normal man. I suppose that his humanization is what the flock cannot take; I suppose they would prefer their God to remain something not of this earth. And yet, if you are a Christian, you are taught that Jesus was a man of flesh and blood.
This is the link to the images. You have to click on Sanctorum. They were made in 2003. Bear in mind that if you are religious, they may offend you.

Friday, March 23, 2007

No cure for GAY

AOG, Madrid

I love this show. I wish I could be a part of it someday. Don't ask, it is just a wish. But it so rocks!
The Daily Show is an American satiric program (or programme if you are British) much in the vein of SNL...only it packs a bigger punch, which is shown on Comedy Central, home of South Park which I also worship.

I have seen many of its segments when I was in London, and I can honestly say to anyone who thinks there is no opposition in the US, or a free press, to have a look.

And speaking's a small clip which I wish to share with my reader (s).

It is worth watching until the end of the clip, if for no other reason than to watch somebody who thinks he is no longer gay just because he is married with children. I decline to comment and choose instead to respect his choices in spite of what I may think about them. We all have a right to make mistakes. That goes for me too.

However I will say that study after study says that there is a very high suicide rate amongst people who try to reorient their sexuality, aside from a huge rate of failure. Nonetheless, many choose to believe this is something which can be achieved.

Have a look.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Writing buddies Madrid; Chapter One

AOG, Madrid

Last week I posted an ad on the internet looking for writing buddies in Madrid. Yet another attempt to make a life here resemble slightly the life in London. Not that I hanker for London, but some things have been put away for too long. I need to write again. I need support. And writing buddies is going to have to do. My friend Regine is in Berlin, and the other ones are in London. I have to do this.

I met with one last thursday. We spoke much and wrote nothing. I was due to meet another guy last friday but it was impossible. So I might meet him this wednesday. I met another chap tonight. He's from Huesca province. And 23. Younger than I.

He told me about the way he envisions his death- out in the open Cantabrian sea when he is an old man. Isn't that exciting? he asked. He is 23. Very approachable and friendly. He smokes a lot. But this is Spain, so that is to be expected.

The two I've met thus far are very nice, if eccentric in their own way. As I suppose I must be too. I am glad I met tonight's writing buddie. I did some freewriting with him which I have not done in a long while. Mostly nonsene, but, My written nonsense! He was very complementary about my writing and when I asked if he'd like to meet again, he put his hands together and said "please". I think that is one of the nicest compliments I've had in a long time.

Yesterday the weather in Madrid was lovely. Sunny with a very light breeze. Today's weather was nothing to do with yesterday. It was cold and windy. I think it might rain tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Peculiarities of the Spanish streets

AOG, Madrid

One of the things that strike me most about livig in Spain, is the amount of old people on the streets. Used as I was to seeing a few OAPs (Old Age Pensioners for those of you not British) in London here and there, mostly in Post Offices, or at the corner shop, in Spain, you come accross hundreds of older people at all times and in all places. many of them work. Yes, some old people in the UK also work, but here, some of them run shops, or drive taxis, or work as waiters, well into their old age.

When you walk the streets, there they are, hand in hand the women, side by side the men. When you take the underground (subway), the bus, when you take a stroll. They are everywhere I go. Their lives don't just end in Spain. They don't hide and wait for the end. Like little ants they scurry forth, at their pace, probaly as they always did. I guess in Spain you are always you well into old age. Perhaps they don't realise they are old? And by this I mean that compared to other countries, the elderly strolling the streets appear to be very energetic.

They also appear to have a devil-may-care attitude. I am not saying they are aggressive, but most (certainly not all) do appear to be quite able to tell you off should you cross them. Perhaps it is defensive.

The kind old lady stereotype is a little bit harder to find in Spain. Of course, there are kind old ladies in Spain. I would venture that most are kind. But their number is certainly challenged by very straightforward ladies who will -sometimes- tell you to get off your seat on the bus and let them use it. Some will just look at you hoping you'll get up.

Others, and remember that animals work best in packs, will, if with a friend, start to tell their friend in a loud voice that some people today have no manners; that it is incredible how some people are rude enough to occupy a seat; etcetera. Sometimes it works. Sometimes the person they are alluding to wil get up and apologise, then the old ladies will apologise too and one of two things may happen, they will sit down (if there are two of them they will have a small argument over who should take the seat) or they will remain standing because they are either getting off at the next stop, or for some other reason. Perhaps pride. I think this is what keeps the running. Pride.

But not only old people roam the streets of Spain. Everyone roams here. I have seen more blind people walking the streets than anywhere else in the world I have visited. Of course in Spain there is an organisation called ONCE which provides many blind people with jobs, and they have a weekly lottery which provides them with funds. The blind are also very likely to appear on television. Participating in game shows, or very often, in the news. Not as newsreaders, but to illustrate their plight. And this is not an infrequent affair.

Not a day goes by that I don't see somebody with a deformity, or in a wheelchair, or in crutches, or with a medical condition they choose not to hide, or missing a limb (well, these are a bit rarer but they do exist), out in the open, living life to the fullest. They do not get hidden away as perhaps they do elsewhere. They seem to have an abundance of spirit in this country that permeates most everywhere and affects most everyone. And everyone is polite to each other when they take public transport. And if you are pregnant, all the seats are yours! Everyone gets up.

Of course, I am sure that many people in Spain do get hidden away. You hear stories about people being locked up for years. But you wouldn't know it by just walking up and down the streets in any Spanish city.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Turkey looses the plot.

AOG, Madrid

Today, a court in Turkey ordered Türk Telecom (TT), to deny access to YouTube from anywhere inside the country- read article here. The reason? Someone has uploaded a video on You Tube that seems to suggest the creator of modern Turkey, Kemal Ataturk, was a homosexual and so were some (or all) of his assistants.

As we all know, in Turkey, to defile or insult the country, or its history, is a crime punishable by law. To say nothing of the Armenian genocide. Turkish writers, the latest high profile case being that of Nobel prize winner Orhan Pamuk, are forever on the news being tried for defiling the Turkish nation because they suggested - or right out confirmed- that there had been a genocide of the Armenians.

This is another case of denial of a basic human right:the freedom of speech. The other day I went to the Democrats Abroad meeting. A wise lady said she had a stock answer for people who opposed abortion: "If you don't like abortions, don't have one!" I would suggest to the Turkish Government to do the same. If you don't want to watch a video that suggests Ataturk was gay....don't watch it! For those of you interested to see what all the fuss is about....see below.

As if this video were not bad enough (though perhaps this is not the video in question but rather another video) someone has posted a reply. This time suggesting that it is the Greeks who are homosexuals. Look out for those "Gayreeks" [sic.]

The only thing wrong with this video is that it falls short of its purpose. It leaves out hundreds of names. Pity.

I think someone has to remind both of these countries of a couple of things. One, it is not a crime nor a cause of shame to be a homosexual. Personally, if Kemal Ataturk was gay (and I guess we'll never know for sure), it would make me like him a bit more. And two, Greeks and Turks can both be gay. I think it is disgusting that anyone would try to make this distinction and somehow try to denigrate a person by merely calling them gay. If you are called black...should you feel insulted? Is being black a bad thing? Well of course not! Neither is being homosexual.

I sometimes wonder if the EU is doing the right thing by toying with the idea of allowing Turkey into the club. As far as I'm concerned, we should start by kicking Poland out if its government's comments regarding abortion, religion and homosexuality are concerned. I thought we all entered the XXI century together.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Short sleeves in Winter

AOG, Madrid

Last Friday I walked to work in short sleeves with a jumper tied round my waist just in case. Winter in Madrid has been a mostly cold, as well as sunny, affair. The wearing of shades continued much as it always does year-round in this country.

No one said a word about this at the office. I think for most it was just a matter of time before the weather changed. Unlike in London, the locals think of the weather in a very matter-of-factly way.

Sunlight is somehow their birthright, and it leaves occasionally to grace other lands, before coming back home. Simple as that.

On a different note, these days Spain is enmeshed in Europe's biggest terrorist trial. I look at the accussed and wonder, really wonder, if these men, if all of these men, are members of Al Qaeda. I don't claim to know what a terrorist looks like. I suppose they look quite normal. But these men on television don't really look like they could have orchestrated the massacre of the 11 March, 2004. Maybe they did. Maybe they didn't. I suppose enough evidence has been gathered to ensure these men are there because enough reasonable doubt has been drummed up regarding their innocence or culpability. I am glad I am not the man who has to decide their innocence or otherwise. I am a mere spectator. And the show on offer somehow does not convince me of their culpability. Not yet. Maybe in the future. Perhaps as more evidence comes forward, perhaps then. But not yet.

I got back from London this morning. It was cold, raining, the usual. I arrived in Madrid to a blast of sunshine and a baking hot journey from Barajas' Terminal 4 to the underground station. Blinded and baked I descended from the bus thinking how diverse the climate can be when separated by a few kilometers. Although I was quite sleepy from having slept very little and having been up since 5 AM, the sunlight slowly took away the sleep, the tiredness, the morosity. In its place a silly bit of energy fuelled by sunlight kept me up til now.

Friday, March 02, 2007

A day without mobile phones... not ! !

AOG, Madrid

Yesterday, numerous Consumer Groups in Spain staged a "Day without mobiles" (cell phones for those of you in the Americas). Was it done in conjunction with some international protest against global warming, or the health risks to the brain of mobile radio waves? No. It was to do with pricing.

Last year the Spanish parliament, (the Cortes) passed a law which forbade the usual practice of "rounding off" tariffs, charges, minutes, etc in Spain.

Up until then, and if you have a car you can relate to this, you would go to a car park, and be charged a full hour even if you had gone over the hour by a few minutes. The same with telephone calls. The government was obviously trying to help consumers and wanted to teach a few companies a lesson.

But, as the saying in Spain goes, he who makes the law, creates the loop hole. Mobile telephone companies in Spain- or at the very least Movistar, owned by Telefónica- have hit back by raising the cost of a phone call based on future losses. Spain already has one of the highest mobile phone call tariffs in Europe.

According to today's news, Vodafone and Orange gave yesterday's event little notoriety and declared that network usage had been the same as that of "any other Thursday".

Joan Clos, Spain's Minister of Industry, did declare that he had "endeavored to refrain from using his mobile" as a sign of solidarity with consumer groups.

I for one only found out that the event was happening at all when I got to work and began to surf the newswires. Although the consumer groups in charge say the event was a success, I have my doubts. Not enough publicity had been given to it. If no one knows the event is happening, the proverbial tree may as well stay put in the forest, because no one even knows it is there to make a sound.

Nonetheless, I agree fullheartedly with the move and, should they ever stage another, will make sure my mobile remains switched off.