“The sky is completely blue, the sparrow hawks circle around us; below, far away, the small men. They crawl noiselessly; the liquid light seems to penetrate the surface of things. Maxime haggles over a coral necklace with a woman, a necklace with a vermillion stone. She was breast feeding; she hid to remove her necklace, with modesty - but she nevertheless showed her “both breasts,” as Ruppel would say. The deal doesn’t happen. At sunset, the grey, blue, purple light penetrates the atmosphere. back into the city, pipe and coffee in a café. We begin our preparations for the pyramids expedition - good physical and moral state - good hope, good stomach. So, so, everything’s fine.”
Dec 4th, good day. This man is using Hi as a venue to publish his ongoing translations of Gustave Flaubert’s travel diaries. (Not currently available in English.) They are amazing.
(In your daily whimsy.)
10:54 am • 4 December 2013 • 3 notes
“Major Pando and Rodimtsev organized an all-round defense at the base of a small hill. Their machine-gun company, commanded by a woman, Captain Encarnación Fernández Luna, managed to hold off the battalion until Lister organized a counter-attack with tanks and reinforcements. Rodimstev and Pando ran over to the machine-gunners to hug the commander in gratitude, only to find her calmly combing her hair while looking into a fragment of broken mirror.”
"The Battles of the Jarama and Guadalajara," Antony Beever. From The Battle For Spain: The Spanish Civil War 1936-1939.
4:35 pm • 1 December 2013 • 1 note
I’m really going to miss this place. I’m going to miss the balcony overlooking the tiny Old City street. I’m going to miss the coffee shop and the potato tortillas under glass. I’m going to miss my morning slice, a cup of coffee, my book, and standing at the counter in the afternoon light. I’m going to miss the solitude and being surrounded by lively old men with their eyeglasses and walking canes. I’m going to miss their wives, at the next table over, full-throated laughter and melanoid hair dye. I’m going to miss the old ramparts and the fort and the proximity to many important things: people, history, anonymity, possibility.
I’m going to miss it all — why am I leaving?
7:35 pm • 29 November 2013 • 9 notes
My friend got a turkey from the woman at his local mercado. “Pavo?” he asked. “Tienes pavo?”
She shook her head, like everybody else had, but with an addendum. She could special order one for us — what size?
“Twenty pounds?” my friend estimated with his hands.
She called her guy. There was a long pause. She pressed the phone to her shoulder to muffle the receiver.
“He’s looking out his window.”
My friend and I laughed with delight. This farmer, looking out his window, gauging his turkey’s weight by sight. We had won!
(The next day, when we arrived to pick it up, she was still plucking feathers from the body.)
Thanksgiving is hard to come by in Pamplona. There are no cranberries, hardly any sweet potatoes, and not many Americans. We invited a Belgian, a Peruvian, and a Spaniard. We explained the sick legacy of our national holiday. They loved it.
We talked mostly in Spanish. We made apple pie; served thickly-crusted slices with ice-cream and cookies.
We ate and told jokes until we were crying with laughter.
“Your sense of humor is exactly the same in Spanish as it is in English,” I told my friend.
“You sound like a teenager in Spanish AND in English,” my friend retorted.
We ate and told more jokes. We stopped making sense. We listened to Motown. We sang songs instead of talking. We had another piece of pie.
All in all, I would say, a wild success. (But that’s just one opinion.)
10:01 am • 29 November 2013 • 15 notes
As I now move, graciously, I hope, toward the door marked Exit, it occurs to me that the only thing I ever really liked to do was go to the movies. Naturally, Sex and Art always took precedence over the cinema. Unfortunately, neither ever proved to be as dependable as the filtering of present light through past images and voices onto screen. Thus, in a seemingly simple process, screening history. — G. Vidal
11:59 am • 26 November 2013 • 2 notes
“Nationalist pilots devised an original method of dropping fragile supplies. They attached them to live turkeys which descended flapping their wings, thus serving as parachutes which could also be eaten by the defenders.”
— The Battle for Spain, Antony Beever. (Giving myself history lessons.)
9:30 am • 26 November 2013 • 8 notes
In Pamplona, start your morning in the old cafe on La Plaza del Castillo. It will be raining, because it is November, and the season has just passed. (Except, there is no season in Pamplona. Just hot, cold, and the running of the bulls. Then the population swells to six times its normal size, around one million people in the Old City alone.)
They’re all gone by November, though, when the chill sets in deeply and without mercy, withering the heartbeats of its hurrying figures.
Listen to a university lecture from a famous screenwriter — ”You have to be a journalist of human behavior,” he advises — and then, later, when it is cold and you are too drunk to move, watch one of his most successful film trilogies. Go to bed late, because you can’t sleep. For no reason at all, wake up very early. Head back to the coffee shop. Get una otra cappuccino.
The person you live with is attentive and talkative, always making extra food and cornering you with glasses of beer:
“I’m a serial monogamist,” he confides. “I’m moving in with my girlfriend next month.”
“You ALL are,” you want to emphasize, but you don’t know him well enough and, regardless, lack a sophisticated grasp on the language. “Todos los hombres,” you say, snorting into your drink. “Todos los hombres en el mundo son diablos.”
In Pamplona, in the winter, there’s nothing to do but drink coffee and wine, coffee and wine, interrupted by occasional bouts of egotistical philosophy; mutely desiring other people from a distance.
12:33 pm • 21 November 2013 • 7 notes
Catherine Keeps Me Up At Night.
Of Insomnia and Fairy Tales.
by Cassie Marketos
I try to write a story about something that’s happened every single day. But because I live a quiet life, relatively speaking, this means a lot of corny tales about what I’ve eaten or where I’ve visited or the person’s initials that I’ve…
I wrote a piece on French filmmaker Catherine Breillat for Bright Wall, Dark Room. Read it today!
12:22 pm • 19 November 2013 • 48 notes
Whit Stillman. I love Whit Stillman.
Barcelona is a brilliant film about people who don’t understand each other on any level: cultural, sexual, intellectual, etc. People get offended and walk off in huffs. Americans judge Spaniards for judging Americans. Women live with their boyfriends while maintaining a stable of here-and-there lovers. Despite what this sounds like, the drama is understated — absorbed by the chug-along narrative like raspberry sauce into sponge cake.
So, how did this happen?
Barcelona is Stillman’s second film, preceded by the critically acclaimed (and Oscar nominated) Metropolitan. It was inspired by “An Officer and a Gentleman,” in response to which cheeky Stillman decided to make a film about “An Officer” and (separately) “A Gentleman.” This is how we ended up with cousins Ted and Fred, the former a stuffy business man working a white collar sales job at a desk in Barcelona, the latter an arrogant-but-oh-well military man who shows up in the country at a time of anxious anti-Americanism and parades around in fully Navy dress. Together, they meet women, disagree about politics, fret about the future, fall in love, behave with an atrocious level of self-involved snobbery, and — yet — remain utterly likable in their strangely droll brand of earnestness.
This is Stillman at his finest; a master of manners, arrogance, identity, and ego. He drops precisely crafted characters into vague windows of time — “The Late ’70s” or “The Last Decade of the Cold War” — and lets them go crazy on each other. The humor is always tremendous because it is never forthrightly acknowledged. (Thank the actors for their spot on delivery.)
Nothing is incidental, and everything eventually comes full circle. How does he do so much and make it feel like so little?
I’ve had a few drinks and, I confess, I’m in love. (With a film.)
From the other place where I like to write about movies I like. (Echo, echo.)
5:59 pm • 18 November 2013 • 6 notes