Monday, October 31, 2005

Rigid fingers

Here is a portrait of me as a Lego, courtesy of here, via mor.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Thank you, William Randolph Hearst

Look at this, via 42. Some of them are actually good.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Succulent mega-tart

This is what Tot brought us for dessert on Sunday. The mound seen consists entirely of cream and strawberry pieces. The spoon was placed to indicate scale. The confectionary concoction seems to have been devised in the Outpost, and also comes in an even larger size (the particular one is meant to be shared by five).

Front view:

Rear View:

Monday, October 24, 2005

The time of reckoning

This post is like those crappy sitcom 'specials', which are actually reruns with just an added twist at the end. As the drums sound in the distance once more, I am sitting in my office, unable to concentrate on work, calmly thinking about what we have learned during the past three months:

I never liked the weather here. The lack of somewhere to walk in(to) has really intensified our general sense of entrapment. Ignorance (especially among those who should afford none), can be hilarious, irritating or disheartening, depending on the circumstances, but usually not lethal. Hypocrisy and the local form of doublespeak, likewise. Maybe the quasi-fascist mores of part of the society are more perilous, but there are those who are alert. The fierceness of the people I was lucky enough not to experience directly, after all I came here 50 years late for the times when people would kill their neighbours with stones and sticks. Then, there is the coarseness and peculiar conversation strategies, which we have managed to partly negotiate.

Still, it has been much harder to cope with the ugliness of the landscape and some instances of rampant parochialism. Of course, these and much more can often be overcome with a little help from sound social life. However, you also know about the social tedium and the general feeling of loneliness we are going through here, too.

So, it became almost official last weekend: we are languishing here and we need out soon. Although I am no longer as cautious when it comes to the 'where to' question, we still have nowhere to go.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Pictures

Just two pictures.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Still...

... the single most beautiful and uplifting thing in the Capital throughout those long (almost) four years has been this:

Hundreds of birds (what birds are they?) gathering daily inside the ficus benjamina trees lining some streets of the Capital at sundown and deafeningly cheeringly chirping to each other, masking the noise.

Youth

I have faith in the Outpost youth. They grow up in a materialist but fanaticised, parochial and entrenched society, with little stimulus and with little of note to do (except perhaps some sport), a society that only recently has begun opening up to the possibility of there existing an outside world of any true importance. Still, an impressively large proportion of them escape early marriage, early employment, early procreation and the ensuing sweet lull of building a family home, of buying an unrealistically expensive car and of living life like strangers with a spouse they used to know well, in jobs found for them by the family. Large sections of the Outpost youth has an almost indomitable desire to learn, to create, to contribute -- some young individuals are among the most brave, spirited, open-minded and open-hearted people I have known.

They are everywhere: journalists who want to do graduate studies so that they "do not bluff their way through writing, without a solid theoretical foundation", hard-working students, amateur actors, ingenious and patient diplomats with principles (wow), rocking schoolkids, political activists, playful artists and grave artists -- all making a difference.

Most of them have studied abroad or intend to. They leave the Outpost ignorant, fearful of familylessness and of the wide open world, the males subdued by the 26-month-long daily pointlessness of military service, the females on the brink of mental castration. They come back, well, enlightened.

On a less than cheery note, compare this with most Compatrido youths studying abroad: they leave Compatridia omniscient, fearful of the wide open world and oh so ready to rock. They go on to spend their studies (?) lamenting the lack of everything they prize: cheap cigarettes, mum's cooking, easy ways to cheat, cheap booze all night long, toleration of plagiarism, TV shows and everyone considering them nothing short of brilliant. No need to debate the state they come back in.

Theatre

Theatre in the Outpost is exceptional. There are many and very good stages, starting with the brilliant Principality Theatrical Organisation, and not all of them are in the Capital. The actors tend to be at least decent (and sometimes really good), and even when they are not talented, they are usually diligent and meticulous. The repertory is varied and the venues quite numerous (and usually packed), considering. There are also visiting theatre groups aplenty, usually of high standing. All that in a tiny place, from limited resources (bar the lavishly funded Principality Theatrical Organisation) and for a small population.

We're off to a production of Mamet's Oleanna in the weekend; I'm very excited, actually.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Power

A thought on power, also useful should we seriously consider mixing God with politics.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Another birthday

or The Sorrows of Young Werther

I don't want to write this post. In fact I have work to do and if I were to post something, I would rather tell you about Outpost theatre, which is so very good. I don't want to write the post I am actually writing, mainly because of the on- and off-line brouhaha it might cause. But I have to.

My birthday was to be celebrated on the same day as Great Westphalian's housewarming party. Great Westphalian asked us to drop by later, and I vaguely said I would. The day passed at work and then quietly and sweetly, courtesy of Jod (and her presents). In the evening, the members of the bubble, friends and some house guests would all go to a live music restaurant to celebrate.

It turned out that very few people remembered me for the occasion, especially compared to last year (when I was away in England). With few exceptions, like Jorge (may God make him serene, rich and job-happy -- as everything else, he has) and people like, say, my parents and the like.

We went to the restaurant. The food was very good, the music quite good, the wine list crap (they had no Outpost beer, either). But what really bewildered, enraged and depressed me was my dinner guests' behaviour. With very few bright exceptions, they chatted the night away among them, paying very little attention to the person whose birthday they were supposedly celebrating. I'll keep it short here, just mentioning that no fun whatsoever was had, at least on my behalf.

We went home not particularly early, some time after 1:30 am. It turned out that Great Westphalian was expecting me after that in his housewarming party, as he had a little birthday surprise for me (complete with cake and presents). He was not very happy afterwards, and how can I blame him?

The following days have been very difficult for both me and Jod. I could cast a malediction (ineffective), or blame the Outpost for the lot (totally unfair). All I can really do is bark my frustration away in this so very public stage of my internal life.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Eating out

Leaving tourist traps aside, although they are numerous, as they are just that, i.e. tourist traps, eating out in the Outpost is not just one of the few forms of entertainment, but also a remarkable experience. Now, the worst case scenario in eating out in the rest of the world entails one of the following:
a) awful food
b) exorbitant prices
c) service from hell
d) miniscule portions
e) a choice of the above
So many options -- none of them easy to be found here. In the Outpost, the worst case scenario in eating out means maybe not great value or maybe not the most exquisite food or maybe a tad on the expensive side. Usually, food is good, reasonably priced, politely served and in huge quantities.

As for choice: first of all, you have the local cuisine, which is delicious -- although limited in scope and overrated, moreover I am still suffering from withdrawal symptoms. Second, there is the number, variety and quality of international restaurants: Chinese, Japanese, South African, Syrian, Lebanese, Curry places, Italian, French, US-style diner, Greek, Spanish, Mexican etc. Third, junk food is so mediocre, you usually want to go out and eat something really good...

Expats in the Outpost quickly and visibly gain weight shortly after arrival. No wonder.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Birthday

Celebrating (almost) one year of this blog (attention: self-referentiality alert!), I will be writing about great things in the Outpost. You know, the kind of things I will be missing n years from now, when I will have finally escaped from here, bitter and grey... ;-)

This is the (non-final) list, to be expanded in the following days / weeks / months:
Eating Out
Theatre
(Some) young people
As for more talk of books and angels of heaven, promised last August, ah, sorry, I can't bother: boring.

Monday, October 10, 2005

An isolated incident

In case you are among those who leer at the 'Chinese miracle', who think that Tibet is the one human rights issue over there and who firmly believe that capitalism entails freedom and equal rights, try this.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Three themes

In case you thought all is well in the Outpost because I keep silent about it, well, it is on a personal level. But look at these themes, too:

One of the Seven told us on Sunday that she closed the account with the Principality's Housing Finance Corporation she's had since she was a teenager. Naturally, the purpose of having an account with them is in order to secure (better terms for) a mortgage from them. Only that the Corporation will only sell mortgages to married couples. "Hang on, maybe they give priority to married couples", said Jod, holding fast on her cappuccino. "No, they used to sell mortgages to everyone eligible, but now they officially only lend to married couples." It's really hard for me to believe this, but if it is true...

BBC recently 'quoted anonymous local commentators suggesting' (= "pointed out") that local politicians need to come to grips with the Principality no longer being a superpower (it used to be during the Bronze Age, well, mutatis mutandis, and then those blasted Phoenicians took over world trade -- and do not get us started on the Egyptians) and with the world having other business to attend to besides the problems of a tiny place with a population less than one million. This is an appalling point of view. It's called realism.

The sinister Nomenclature that be are trying not to promote someone I know and who is worthy of promotion (the ad hoc committee freely and unreservedly suggested so). See, she is a
a. foreign
b. unmarried
c. woman.
Hence, she is without patrons. She is too intelligent. She does not pay lip service to any of the three (four?) factions in the department she works in. Hence, she has gained no patrons. She was given outside responsibilities and serious duties too quickly, due to merit. She is hard-working. Hence, she is coveted and feared. The Nomenclature people told her that much; they (or anyone else here) are not very subtle.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Diminishing nostalgia

For years the urban theme inside my head whenever walking in London was the Box by Orbital.

Here is an urban picture:


Three years ago, cappuccino in a legendary cafe in the Home City for the first (and maybe the last) time, watching the downpour. Autumn becomes cities.