Friday, July 29, 2005

Hell must be a comfortably spacious place

Here is another photo from my recent stay in Cambridge, Mass., which I cordially dedicate to moira, with a wink.

repent you scum

Also, notice the child at the right edge of the picture.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Boston pictures

... with minimal commentary.

First, the obligatory shot of downtown Boston

Boston

and some more of the downtown.

Boston II

Then, the charming neighbourhood of Beacon Hill.

Beacon Hill

A curious case of segregation from the Harvard Bookstore.

Books

A glimpse of the catholic tackiness, er, heritage, from North Cambridge...

Catholic

... and of urban life, waiting for Hamlet, in the Boston Common.

common theatre

Finally, an idea for a T-shirt logo, straight from the city's Museum of Fine Arts:

cup legend

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The glorious bubble

I briefly glimpsed 'real' America when walking the wrong way across Massachusetts Avenue, away from Boston instead of towards it, on the television and in the Logan Airport bookshop (I never knew so much rubbish was published under the 'popular science' tag). Otherwise, I spent happy days in awe.

Boston is beautiful. Sitting last Saturday on the Boston Common and watching the crowds in deckchairs and on blankets watching the free production of Hamlet while munching on bread and cheese and hotdogs and sipping on white wine, I knew Boston was a city I would love to live in. Only in Prague have I seen so many, so good and so cheap books in sale. Books everywhere, I spent $450 on them and I was modest modest modest. Far from being 'snotty' and 'highbrowed' (as Californians and Southerners hold), Bostonians are relaxed, friendly and courteous, free from what characterises all Europeans, from the Urals to Galway and from Nordkap to Gavdos: reserve and bile. Civic pride was aplenty, and for good reasons too: a beautiful city, but not a 'model' one (there is the blasted expressway running through it, after all), colourful, liveable, diverse. The Museum of Fine Arts is wonderful, too, albeit understated.

It was Cambridge that stole my heart away. It takes feeling only slightly "intellectual" to be forever charmed by a place where an amazing mix of people goes about holding and using musical instruments, books, notebooks, laptops, where bookshops offer you the equivalent of the stendhalian experience of a cheese shop in France. I was lucky to have my own Beatrice there to guide me around, my good friend St, recently arrived from the Outpost as well, and point out the various types: the Harvard mother, the gay activist, the faculty secretary, the preacher, the genious, the reggae kids, the nerd, the failed Alanis, the Haitian cabbie, the sex goddess, the Greek diner owner, the writer, the ZZ Top-styled linguist, a future president of the United States. Unlike Cambridge, England, where 'intellectualism' is framed in alcohol, musty shabbiness and reclusiveness, Cambridge, Massachusetts puts on display a fascinating alternative: Peet's coffee, hard-working casualness and bohemianism (although more than just these).

St said Boston is a bubble. It must be. But a fair sized (like everything American) bubble, and so full of wonders. Besides, as I told her, in the Outpost we also live in a bubble, of five: herself, myself, Jod, A+ and pH. How could one of millions be bad?

At the end of the day, Boston and Cambridge made me a happier person.

Waiting for questions and comments this time, I am sure I left a lot out. Pictures coming up later.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

617 - First impressions

Boston is like someone, quite unexpectedly, took London and, as if by urban magic, transfigured it into a beautiful city.

Monday, July 18, 2005

To the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

So many people (the Viennese Rhino and sissoula among them) are very curious about what I will think of Boston and my first time in America, although, well, Boston is not your typical America: not even three-legged aliens can survive it.

We'll find out soon.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Survival of the fittest

I had the misfortune of spending two hours of my life last night watching the miserable piece of cack called, you know (I am not even naming it). Before I attack it, a disclaimer:

I am not squeamish but I strongly resent the depiction of brutal death in a film to create an effect. This is the reason I will never see the Titanic, a melodrama capitalising on scenes of people drowning like rats, or most splatter films. Of course, it is not slaughter or burning or disembowelling or shooting as such I have problems with, it is the way they are shown and their narrative and cinematic purposes (so, no problem with David Lynch or Tarantino whatsoever). In fact I am perplexed and annoyed by the fact that the public are so intolerant towards the depiction of "gratuitous sex" (what does 'gratuitous' mean in the context of sex? I mean, non-reproductive sex is 'gratuitous', right? Haha) and, at the same time, so ok with films where people are freeze-drowned screaming helplessly, or are zapped into cinders in the foreground, or have steel blades disrupt their respiratory system a tergo for being stupid teenagers, or are slowly devoured alive. This was one of the reasons I hated the new Spielberg piece of [place own term here], a miserable return to what the industry thinks he does best, after the brilliant Minority Report.

Then comes the rest of the reasons: that maximally annoying girl screaming relentlessly, the bathetic ending ('bathos' is not potent or pompous enough to describe it), the obscurantist politics underlying the narrative, the pukifying 'family' subplot, Tom Cruise planting grenades into a harvesting machine's tight anus (I wish it looked half as good as it sounds), the lamentable music score. Above all, the film is an assault on the audience, a shameless sensory and ideological overkill: panic, disgust, misery, horror, helplessness, gore, paranoia and fear, fear, fear. All in dizzingly high doses. The film acts as a sort of a cinematic Inquisition, ensuring the message inculcated will not be lost on anyone: we are helpless, we are vulnerable, we are fertiliser; although there are no more nukes to wipe us out, humanoid slimy-looking Arabs (sorry, aliens) will either burn us up leaving only our clothes hovering in mid-air or will suck our blood dry. A tequila sunrise and some night driving afterwards only partially alleviated the effect of this overdose.

(Ok, my favourite scene: all-American denizens killing each other for an SUV. Hohoho.)

Incidentally, if you want a subtle, really chilling and genuinely terrifying take on the topic, go see 28 Days Later.

Your London days are over

For the last two weeks, whenever I go to the gym, I hear a song playing. I don't know what it's called and I don't want to learn (otherwise, Google is only a click away). Its chorus goes like 'I could never be a woman', which is peculiar, considering it is sung by a presumed man. This is some coincidence, as this song was quite a hit back during my London days. I would actually hear it playing every time I would shop in Harts the Grocer (which became yet another Tesco Metro long time ago), opposite the Russell Square station exit.

If I were superstitious, I would consider this is due to some cosmic get-together concerned with awakening this memory into me, in the aftermath of the bombings (a teaching assistant? what the fuck, world?). But I know that, in reality, it is just that the gym has only a finite number of CDs to play.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Naive questions

Seeing injured Londoners against the backdrop of my former home, off Russell Square, realising one of the trains exploded below the Marchmont Street - Judd Street area, where Hyporborean Hunter and me would buy Chinese takeaway and sandwiches, browse books and tacky postcards and get haircuts and kebaps, I wondered: why are these people to blame for the UK government's crimes?

Then I wondered, why were the non-combattant secular Bosnian Muslims of Srebrenica to blame for anything? Or Israeli commuters? Or the good people of Baghdad since 1991? Or janitors and cleaners in the Twin Towers? Or Madrilenos? Or Palestinian children? Are we supposed to all rise up in rebellion against Islamic / Baathist / Imperialist / Zionist / no-matter-what terrorism and crimes? Yes -- but with the alternative being death while shopping or commuting?

...praeter necessitatem

Strange people, Outposters. First you claim they "lack in clever wit or warmth of emotion". Then you complain about pretty much everything, in effect calling them hypocrites passim. Not an eyelid bats. Recently you actually curse them, for %^@$#@*'s sake, and they applaud. You do the above in all honesty and seriousness, too.

Still, if you engage into some fancy role-playing, pretending you are some sort of social scientist dissecting their 'realities', and call them 'peasants', trouble ensues.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Entia non sunt multiplicanda...

I have been meaning to write about shutters lately, or, rather, the scarcity thereof in the Outpost. Now that it has become really hot, I have started noticing that most newly built homes (i.e., say, 60% of all homes), houses and flats alike, completely lack shutters of any description. This means that the heat cannot be prevented from reaching through the glass panes and getting trapped indoors. Instead of shutters, you have curtains or the cursed Venetian blinds (a cat's plaything and not even sexy anymore). Why would people not install shutters in a land drenched in sunlight? Why do they want the heat to be trapped inside their homes, between glass and curtain? Do they like it? Not really, that's why they set their air conditioners at 18 degrees, with fans at full speed.

I have been trying to both seek an explanation and reconstruct the just-so story locals would have about this. Then, suddenly, inspiration in TGI Friday's: a general theory that captures all sorts of Outpost behaviour, sure with the details still left to be worked out, but a good, simple theory in any case; it can be reduced to a single proposition:

Outposters are peasants.

'Peasants' should be read descriptively: neither as pejorative nor as a label glorifying rustic purity. Once this is understood, you can go back and read every single post of this blog under the light of the proposition above and it will all fall into place now. As a bonus, the above captures intriguing similarities between 'Outpost realities' and those in other places and times. Actually, in hindsight I wonder why it has taken me so long.

While you are occupying yourselves with this, I can take a short break (maybe), dedicating myself to internal life.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

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